[EDITORIALS]Assess impact before buildingThe government said that 33 local governments, including Hwaseong, Gyeonggi province and Cheongwon county, North Chungcheong province, approved development plans without undertaking environmental assessments as the law stipulates. Some local governments ignored the approval and authorization process and undertook unauthorized construction work. This shows the terrible state of local governments in understanding environmental protection laws and processes.
Local governments compete with each other for regional development by establishing infrastructure, attracting factories to their regions and creating housing complexes, among others. These development efforts are fundamental to regional self-autonomy. Also, balanced national development is achieved through the efforts of the local governments. But the competition among local governments to develop their regions should not come at the expense of environmental destruction or violation of national laws.
The local governments ignore environmental assessments because the evaluation period is long, and this can create difficulty for projects. Indeed, the environmental assessment regulation can delay regional development to some degree. But it has the benefit of preserving the environment so that residents can enjoy an environmentally- friendly lifestyle, and gives our descendants the chance to develop the areas.
It is desirable for local governments to actively implement regional development projects but they must undertake construction work within the legally-approved boundaries. They must also bear in mind that, to ensure quick and smooth implementation, they must undertake environmental assessments prior to construction work. Look at the now-halted Mount Cheonseong construction work and the Saemangeum land reclamation project. If projects are undertaken without consultations with the residents and environmental groups, construction work falters or breaks down, leading to an increased burden on the people.
The environmental groups and the ministry must undertake quick and accurate environmental assessments in order to prove that such regulations do not stall development projects. The central and local governments must meticulously review whether local development projects conform to balanced national development before they are implemented, and must apply sanctions if they violate the laws.