Korean technology can be used to restore beauty of Bagmati: Jong

jongJong Youb Kim is the Executive Director of Korean Environment Corporation (K-eco), Chungcheong Region in the Republic of Korea (RoK). A university graduate in Business Administration from the University of Hannam, Jong has had a hands-on professional experience in the field of environment management. Born in 1960, he has worked at K-eco’s key departments like resource circulation policy implementation, business management and waste resource to energy.
K-eco has shown its interest in assisting the Government of Nepal in controlling the growing environmental problems in the country, especially in the Kathmandu Valley. In August last year, K-eco and the Ministry of Environment and Population inked a memorandum of understanding in this connection on behalf of the two governments, respectively.
A K-eco team, led by Jong, was recently in Nepal to launch a smart class and open a boundary wall of a high school located in Mayadevi Rural Municipality of Rupandehi district in south central Nepal. The team also informally observed the ecological condition of Lumbini as well as the Kathmandu Valley. Ballav Dahal of The Rising Nepal caught up with Jong to talk about different issues ranging from Nepal’s environmental condition as observed by his team, K-eco activities to possible Korean support for tackling ecological problems in the country. Excerpts:

Could you briefly tell us about K-eco?
K-eco is a quasi-governmental organisation under the Ministry of Environment. It aims to contribute to the eco-friendly development of Korea through the effective operation of greenhouse gas reduction programmes in order to prevent environmental pollution, improve the environment, facilitate resource recycling and respond to climate change. With its vision ‘closer to nature, closer to people, the organisation focuses on activities related to climate, air, water, soil, waste treatment, resource circulation, environmental health and environmental facilities. K-eco’s management policies include innovation, harmony and transparency.
With rapid industrialisation, the whole world is now facing numerous problems, such as climate changes, water shortage and resource depletion. If the trend continues, the future generations will be at greater risk. Considering this, the organisation aims to continue to improve the public environmental services and preserve the environment. It also aims to become a total environment service provider globally.
K-eco takes customers as the first priority, and provides the world-best environmental technology and service. Being a specialised institution in the field of environment, we carry out social responsibilities for environmental improvement and preservation.
It is a matter of pride for us that K-eco has received various international awards from Environmental Business International. The organisation was announced as the sixth consecutive year winner. It was selected as one of the winners of 2016 EBI Awards in the categories of Advancing Best Practices (Low-Carbon Energy) and Project Merit (Waste Information). The EBI Business Achievement Award is an annual campaign to recognise environment-friendly organisations or companies in order to provide information regarding emerging markets and business strategies to investors, companies and policy makers.

What are its key responsibilities?
Our main responsibilities include supporting functions of the overall control on Green House Gas and Energy (GHGE) target management, examining appropriateness, duplication or omission in selection of reporting entities of each agency, assisting an agency responsible for each sector, with inspection and evaluation, and establishing guidelines on GHGE target management in the public sector.
Apart from this, K-eco examines implementation plans and evaluating performance tracking report in the public sector. It also examines GHG and energy data report and implementation plans and performance tracking report and extends technical support on devising reduction plans.

As an environment management expert, how have you found the overall environmental situation in Lumbini and the Kathmandu Valley?
Although we did not measure pollution levels, we have found that the ecological degradation of both Lumbini and Kathmandu is at an alarming stage. I had heard that Kathmandu was one of the most polluted cities in the world. As the saying seeing is believing goes, I have found the city to be highly polluted.
There is a serious problem of dust, air and water pollution. Many of the roads are not black-topped. So, dust is everywhere. Carbon emission is also very high due to rampant operation of old and rickety vehicles. The fuels used by vehicles may also not be of good quality.
I have found the people living in both urban and rural areas to be warm and hearty. But I have found the environmental condition much poorer than expected. Looking at the schools from an ecological point of view, they are also very poor. There is no proper sanitation in and around the schools.
Besides, there has been no practice of separating the bio-degradable and non-bio-degradable garbage while managing it. I would like to draw the urgent attention of the authorities concerned towards the rampant environmental degradation and call upon them to start addressing such a serious problem immediately. When water and air are polluted, they will sure to have an adverse impact on public health. If the people are unhealthy, it will be difficult for the country to push up the process of economic, social and technological development. This will also hit tourism and foreign investment sectors.

How can K-eco help Nepal in addressing the environment-related issues?
K-eco has already signed a MoU with Nepal’s Ministry of Environment and Population on extending the necessary technical support. Once we receive proposals with concrete action plans, we will help Nepal in whatever way we can.
I was very much worried to see the sorry state of the Bagmati River and other rivers and rivulets. It is necessary for Nepal to take the much-needed initiative to give a facelift to these rivers. You can use latest Korean technology in order to restore their beauty and purity.
We feel proud to have been able to preserve our rivers in Korea, including the Han River, from getting polluted.

The Rok has been successful in promoting the concept of ‘green growth’. How has this been possible?
The concept was first adopted at the Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development, jointly hosted by the Ministry of Environment and UNESCAP, in 2005. The conference came up with the ‘Seoul Initiative Network on Green Growth’. It was initiated by the RoK itself.
This concept has been developed to introduce a sustainable economic growth model for the future based on Korea’s experience in implementing environmental protection with economic growth. It complements the concept of sustainable development (integration of economic, social development and environmental conservation) as the latter is very broad. Green Growth aims to move the pattern of economic growth into an environment-friendly one.
The concept of green growth is linked to environmental performance and environmental sustainability. Eco-tax reform and disclosure of the company’s environmental information are policy measures taken to pursue green growth. The concept incorporates the harmony of environment (green) and economy (growth). So this means that economic growth does not harm but improves the environment.

What are the environmental challenges facing the RoK now?
Actually, we do not have any big challenge. In our country, there is a high level of public awareness about the importance of preserving the environment. Everybody accords top importance to the environment. Throwing away garbage haphazardly is illegal in South Korea.
However, we are reeling under a problem of dust pollution. The dust particles come from China. Infrastructure development activities being carried out within our country have also contributed to the dust pollution. Besides, pollution comes from power plants. We are working together with China to control this type of pollution.
But, we are sometimes forced to remove or relocate some plants keeping in view their emission levels.
We have accorded high priority to climate change and water treatment. There has been a Tele-Monitoring System (TMS) in place. This is a system that monitors the emission state of pollution materials on a 24-hour basis. Under this system, there is an online connection between automatic measurement devices, which are attached to the discharging outlet of wastewater processing facilities and wastewater-producing businesses, and a remote water quality control centre. This has proved to be a very effective tool to manage wastes coming out from big businesses and hospitals.
This system helps to prevent water pollution by managing and monitoring the quality of discharged water. Each business is encouraged to make efforts for production process improvement by analysing and managing water pollution levels.

Finally, would you like to add something this?
We want Nepal to be able to restore its rivers and keep its cities clean. As Nepal is our good friend, it will always be in our priority.
For this, strong laws should be in place. Like Korea and other nations, Nepal should also have a legal provision that makes throwing garbage messily illegal. Massive public awareness about the significance of environmental preservation should be launched nationwide.

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