[EDITORIALS]A failed water quality planThe government’s plan to improve the water quality at the Paldang reservoir has turned out to be a failure, six years and 2.8 trillion won ($2.7 billion) after it was first laid out. The Ministry of Environment recently announced plans to delay its goal of upgrading the reservoir’s water quality to “grade level 1” until 2010. It will have to inject an additional 6.4 trillion won into the project with Gyeonggi province.
According to the ministry’s investigation, the reservoir recently showed a biochemical oxygen demand of 1.3 parts per million, a slight improvement over the 1.5 ppm in 1996, but still exceeding the 1 ppm limit required for the water to qualify as the top grade. A bigger problem is that the water is suffering from eutrophication, in which high levels of nutrient concentrations stimulate the growth of algae.
Paldang reservoir recorded 4.1 ppm in chemical oxygen demand, qualifying it as water for industrial use only. In other words, the reservior’s water quality is heading towards excessive levels of eutrophication. Except for a brief improvement during the monsoon season, the rapid growth of plant plankton accompanied by a strong stench is continuously taking place.
The failure of this environmental project clearly reveals the government’s limitations. Unlike for the Nakdong, Yeongsan and Geum rivers, government officials did not adapt the Total Pollution Management System, a cap to limit the total amount of acceptable water pollution, for the Han River. The decision was the result of government fears that the restriction, which limits development in areas neighboring the river, would lead to opposition from residents and regional governments.
The pollution of the Paldang reservoir must not be neglected as it is the source of water for the 20 million people who reside in the metropolitan Seoul area. First of all, we need to snap the chain that starts from building large residential areas, which increases the population of metropolitan Seoul and, eventually, the amount of pollution. Pollution caps must initially be introduced for the Wangsuk and Gyeongan streams, which are the most polluted. Residents of Seoul and its neighboring areas must be willing to pay more in water usage taxes.
Environmental groups must also join the movement. Rather than holding 100 day-long hunger strikes and demonstrations for the sake of salamanders, we need to consider such measures to protect our own lives.