[EDITORIALS]Environmental harmonyFriday is World Environment Day. World Environment Day is designated by the United Nations to make people aware of the seriousness of environmental destruction and to encourage citizens to have a stronger voice in conservation. Because of the effects from its rapid industrialization, Korea suffers from environmental damage. It is fortunate that civic groups, as well as the government, pay special attention to conservation now.
It is most worrisome, however, that the government takes a lukewarm attitude toward environmental groups’ demands to stop various development projects. Among 24 projects that create most social conflicts, cited by the government in April, seven of those projects, including the Saemangeum dam, the Seoul-Incheon canal and the Hantan River dam construction, are related to conservation. That means that the conflict between development and conservation affects society the most. Spurred by the Saemangeum project, environmental activists are staging rallies demanding suspension of construction, while civil servants in North Jeolla province vow to complete the dam and threaten to resign en masse if stopped.
The government is responsible for letting the situation get worse. President Roh Moo-hyun has entrusted issues of this nature to a newly formed planning task force. But after months, that task force has not been established. The government should have provided guidelines recognizing the importance of both development and conservation, and tried to ease conflicts according to the guidelines. As the government took a less-than-active attitude, confrontations between developers and conservationists have gone to the brink of explosion. The government must present a harmonious policy under which conservation and economic development can be pursued at the same time.
Considering the limited amount of land with scarce resources, sustainable development is the only way to improve quality of life. Insisting on either development or conservation only will not work. On World Environment Day, let’s think about the harmony of development and conservation.