Cheonggye stream to be renovated

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Cheonggye stream to be renovated

The Seoul city government yesterday announced a set of plans aimed at restoring historical sites and the ecosystem, which means Seoul’s Cheonggye stream, an iconic redevelopment project spearheaded by Lee Myung-bak, the former president and Seoul mayor, is slated to undergo a series of transformations.

Although the stream has become a centerpiece in the capital city and a popular picnic spot for many residents, Mayor Park Won-soon often expressed concerns that its “hasty construction” had damaging effects on the environment.

Under the new plan, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will create curved sections in the low water channel - a narrower section of the waterway in which water levels are lower - so that the stream can flow in a more natural way. Currently, the waterway runs in a straight line.

It will also relocate Supyo Bridge to its initial position on the Cheonggye stream. After the stream was entombed by pavement in 1958, the bridge was moved to Jangchungdan Park in central Seoul.

In 2003, when former Mayor Lee started an initiative to restore the stream and peel back the concrete - which was built decades ago to boost commerce and cover the sewage system - many expected the symbolic bridge from Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) to be put back in its original place.

However, the structure, which once served as a benchmark for calculating water levels, still remains in the park. The city also plans to remove rock paths, which act like small dams, in a push to improve water quality and offer a better environment for the fish. The large structures have been blamed for standing in the way of schools of fish, and sometimes causing the deaths of organisms in the stream.

The city will also steer water from nearby tributaries or streams into the Cheonggye stream. Presently, the vast majority of water flowing in the stream was pumped artificially from the Han River through concrete pipes.

According to the estimate by the municipal government, it costs 1.8 billion won ($1.68 million) annually to run the current water-flow system.

Some environmentalists warned that the stream’s current design would take toll on the environment and lead to frequent algal blooms.

The restoration plan also includes making the surrounding environment more pedestrian-friendly. The city said that it will establish an additional entrance and crosswalks in the urban park and expand the walkway.

The set of initiatives is based on the results of a two-year assessment conducted by the city’s committee. The committee, consisting of outside experts and citizens, was tasked with examining the park sites and coming up with policy recommendations to sustain the area.

“While we were conducting extensive research on the area, we consulted with a number of experts,” said Cho Myung-rae, the head of the committee and a city planning professor at Dankook University. “I hope that the stream will turn into an eco-friendly tourist destination that retains historical significance.”

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]


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