Ministry rains on plan for a community garden

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Ministry rains on plan for a community garden

Seoul and the central government are arguing over the city government’s community garden project that the city has offered to Seoul residents, once again showing their antagonistic relationship like they have with several other important projects, including the city’s New Town construction project.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said on Tuesday that the Seoul Regional Construction Management Administration under the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs has disapproved the city’s “farm experience” program, which allows 1,000 Seoul households to grow simple crops along the Han River, saying it could generate potential environmental problems. The project is supposed to begin on April 14, but it is now on the verge of cancellation.

The city government announced the garden program in March. It informed citizens that it will lend 7,050 square meters (1.85 acres) of land located at the Han River Park in Seobuichon-dong, Yongsan District, central Seoul, so they can grow simple crops such as lettuce and cabbage from April to December.

Residents willing to participate in the program only pay 20,000 won ($18) to sign up. The city government said in March that the project can play a role in making the city an environmentally friendly place.

The city government said that Seoul residents appreciated the city’s proposal. Their initial plan was to select 500 households and lend eight square meters of the garden to each selected household.

When 5,700 households applied for the program, Seoul eventually expanded the project, randomly selecting 1,000 households and expanding the area of the garden to 12,000 square meters. The popular project, however, has been put on hold by the central government about 10 days before it was scheduled to start.

“The project might pollute the Han River,” Kwon Do-yup, the minister of the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said.

“The ministry has completely removed every potential source of pollution that can harm the country’s four main rivers [Han, Yeongsan, Geum, and Nakdong Rivers]. And the Han River can’t be an exception. We may consider permitting citizens to grow a smaller scale of simple flower gardens, but not vegetables.”

The city government is strongly reacting against the ministry’s call.

“The farm project will not generate any pollution,” Choi Im-gwang of the Hangang Project Headquarters of the city government told the JoongAng Ilbo. “We have developed a drastic plan that can support and manage residents’ farming activities. We also decided to distribute environment-friendly fertilizers in order to prevent any potential pollution.”

The city government said that it had planned to expand the project by providing additional gardens at the Han River Park in Jamwon-dong, southern Seoul, but plans have been halted.


By Yoon Chang-hee, Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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