Cities in Action: Stream Restoration leads to Economic Boost in Suwon

The city of Suwon is located just below Seoul, South Korea, and is home to over a million people. The local government took up a campaign to establish itself as an environmental capital and hosted the first ever Ecomobility festival in 2013. Suwon also boasts an outstanding public transportation system and is the location of the ICLEI-East Asia office.

Suwon is home to the historic Hwaseong Fortress. Running through the Fortress is Suwon Stream, which has recently undergone ecological restoration thanks to the efforts of engaged citizens.

The city has worked for several years on the ecological restoration of Suwon Stream. The stream suffered an influx of sewage water throughout the 1980s as the city experienced rapid urbanization. It became highly noxious and was covered by concrete in 1991.

The Suwon Culture Center and local civic groups came together to create the Headquarters for Suwon Stream Restoration, and were successful in halting further damage to the stream.

Citizen participation played a key role in this project, as private and civil groups worked with the local government on stream restoration. With support from the community, the local government removed 780 meters of retaining-wall and created a socially and economically rejuvenating waterfront.

The restoration project was designed to:

  1. Renew the natural ecological environment around the stream;
  2. Restore the historical attraction of Suwon Hwaseong Fortress; and
  3. Revitalize the economy of traditional markets surrounding the area.

The economic impact of the restoration project is estimated at a total of KRW 91.8 billion a year. The project revitalized the surrounding area, improved the value of buildings, improved the area for walking and biking, and boosted traditional markets in the adjacent neighborhood. It contributed to an increase in the number of visitors by approximately one million and helped increase sales in the surrounding service industry by 30%.

Positive environmental impacts include:

  • an alleviation of the urban heat island;
  • a reduction in the surrounding temperature by 1.3⁰C; and
  • an improvement in water quality, as BOD dropped from 3.4 to 2.15.

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