Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Forest Dump

Over the last 5 years, 42,513 hectares of forest land vanished in Korea*, 24.3% of which in Gyeonggi-do alone. We are talking about almost one soccer field per hour. And we're talking about a country 55 times smaller than the Amazon Rainforest**.

The Yonhap article gives the details for 52% of the total (23,646 ha - which could cover the 2004-2007 period)  :
- 30.5% have been converted into housing land,
- 25.0% into commercial land or factories,
- 22.7% into roads, and an amazing
- 21.8% into golf courses (yes, 5,159 soccer fields)

Yonhap also cites Rep. CHOUNG Hae-gul who pointed out that the number of cases of illegal destruction of forest land rose 20% from 2004 to 2007 (2,070 to 2,492). And the example from the top is not precisely sound : LEE Myung-bak, the former "green" mayor of Seoul who fathered Seoul Forest, wants to cut big chunks of Seoul's green belt in a massive housing program. It won't take long before developers go at the city's biggest lungs : the forests covering its beautiful mountains. 

New gardens keep popping up across the city, and I'm happy to see new regulation forcing villa redevelopments to devote part of the land to green spaces, but a significant portions of new public "gardens" are covered with concrete, tasteless fountains, and "ornaments" looking like plastic toys.

They're just breaking ground in front of the Seoul Museum of History on Shinmun-ro, and according to the blueprints, one can expect a net biomass decrease  (idem for nearby Sejongno / Gwanghwamun Plaza)...

I also wish the "Hang-gang Renaissance" were more about actual "well being" and less about clumsy "touristization". Seoul is on the right track when it highlights the essential role of its river and streams, but it should make sure that what's built makes sense for the long term.

Korea Forest Service report / Yonhap 20080923
** 84 times if you consider that 65% of South Korea are classified as forest land (courtesy Park Chung-hee's reforestation program)

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