Nanjido is a name of an island on a branch of Han River that was the city’s official dump site. Rapid urbanization and growth led the once beautiful island to resemble a huge mountain of garbage. Seoul, however, succeeded in transforming this landfill site to an eco-friendly park, a space for nature and human to exist harmoniously together.
Beautiful Nanjido, Before Becoming Land of Death
The Korean word Nanjido means an island of abundant orchids and gromwells. This low-lying island located on Han river was once a beautiful island known for its array of seasonal flowers, cabbage, radish, cantaloupes and peanuts which were widely cultivated. It was also a habitat for a wide range of birds that flock to the area for aquatic animals found abundant in the clean water
Nanjido under Development Projects
On January 7, 1999, the Seoul Metropolitan Government commenced the Nanji Bank Revetment Works Project remapping the areas surrounding the river. A bridge and paved road connecting Nanjido and Han River was additionally constructed after the project was completed. Conveniently l0cated close to highway, the island was later chosen as the site to host an 18.6km Grand Canal connecting Incheon and Nanjido in 1970. Eyes were fixed on Nanjido and its future development as a multipurpose dam along with many other construction works were slated for this place.
Mountain of Garbage
Rapid urbanization and economic growth in Seoul inevitably increased waste volume from household and industrial sites. However, due to lack of official waste disposal sites, municipal solid waste has generally been disposed of at open landfill sites, such as residential area and low marsh. The city government scrambled to find a large-scale landfill that would accommodate the ever increasing trash. Nanjido was chosen as Seoul’s official dump site in 1978 for its easy accessibility and distance from the downtown Seoul. Since this point, the once beautiful island with promising outlook slowly turned to land of death. From March 1978, trash began to be filled here, and in 1988 28,877 tons of garbage was gushed out to the landfill site every day. It wasn’t until November 26, 1992 when a metropolitan landfill was established to accommodate all trash generated from Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province that the gushing finally stopped.
Transformation into Ecological Park
Piled up with garbage without any hygiene measure, Nanjido became a dangerous eyesore that oozed malodor, harmful gases such as methane as well as effluents. Nanjido destroyed air and water quality of Han river and he surrounding ecosystem. Seoul began channeling all-out efforts to transform the trash heap into a large green space, replete with parks, sculpture, trails, and dazzling views of Seoul.
Nanjido Recovery Project: Land Stabilization Process
The Seoul government began to rethink their plans for Nanjido, and after thorough planning from 1991 to 1996, a major Landfill Recovery Project took off. Seoul focuses on the land stabilization first, and the goals of this major initiative have been to restore the ecosystems of the once-beautiful island of Nanjido. This project focused on four areas of development: Top soil leveling and Soil-Recovery, Leachate Treatment, Extraction and Recycling of Landfill Gas, and Slope Stabilization.
Turning the Landfill into Park
Along with the land stabilization process, Seoul also began shaping this land into a park. Nanjido’s location makes it a perfect place as a gateway to the global stage and to North Korea when the two Koreas are united.
In fact, Sangam-dong where the landfill is located was chosen as the construction site for the 2002 World Cup stadium. The decision brought about the need for the area’s transformation into an eco-park. Goals of the project were clear; Seoul was to show the world that a land of death, symbolic of ill effects of urbanization and industrialization could be reborn as an ecological space.
To give form to the grand plan, Seoul began taking in valuable inputs from all stakeholders; it held an international symposium in December 1999, launched a committee for the world cup park plan in March 2000, and held workshops 4 times from March to April 2000. The voices all called out for a sustainable development and coexistence between nature and human beings. Based on the plan, design for the World Cup Par began in 2000 and the construction was finally completed in May 2002. The grand World Cup Park had 5 smaller parks within the site, namely Nanjicheon Park, Noeul Park, Haneul Park, Pyonghwa Park, and Nanji Han River Park.
Internationally Recognized Landfill Recovery Project
Turning Landfill Gas to Energy
Methane was one of the major gases generated from the Nanjido landfill. The city of Seoul installed 106 methane gas extraction wells at the interval of 120m throughout the former Nanjido landfill site. The gases are then channeled into wells using fan, which are then used to provide heating for 3 public sites including World Cup Stadium, 40 office buildings, and 16,335 households in the surrounding residential areas.
From 2002 to 2014, energy generated from the gases provided to 43,851,787m3 which is equivalent to KRW 8,770,712,570 in total (73,089,000 KRW annually) in monetary terms. Of course this is an astonishing financial benefit. What is more significant, however, is the environmental benefits of the project.
Ecosystem in Recovery
After opening the 2002 World Cup Park to the public, Seoul conducted a systematic analysis on the ecological changes of the area. To get data, Seoul conducted a yearly monitoring on the progress in terms of ecological recovery and park status. Several years of monitoring found that the number of species (both plant
and animal) jumped from a mere 438 kinds in 2000 to 1,092 in 2013. The figures suggest that the pollutants have diminished in the park and that Nanjido is no longer a land of death. The clean air and refreshing waters of the Hangang River, the flowers and trees living in harmony with the animals, represent nothing short of a spectacular environmental renewal.
World Cup Park, a New Landmark of Seoul
Today, the World Cup Park attracts 10 million visitors annually. The Park offers a wide range of special programs, performances and festivals such as the famous silver grass festival at Haneul Park located within the World Cup Park. It also serves as a popular destination for camping and fun golfing outings.
Seoul’s Efforts Recognized Worldwide
The Nanjido rebirth project is highly regarded in the international community. Around 3,000 officials from the world wishing to benchmark Seoul’s exemplary case visit the World Cup Park every year to learn about Seoul’s experience and insight. In fact, Seoul garnered the Special Award from United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT) for its landfill recovery project. The award is one of the most prestigious awards given to acknowledge initiatives which have made outstanding contributions towards developing and improving human settlement and the quality of urban life.