Nowadays, the Taehwa River can be seen as a role model of urban river restoration in the Republic of Korea, even though the work is still ongoing. Biological diversity has already returned, an ecological park and recreational facilities were built and property values nearby have risen. Reversing the river degradation took major political policy changes, bundled into the Taehwa River Master Plan, which was initiated under the umbrella of the Ulsan Ecopolis Plan. The plan was built on a joint declaration by the city government, business owners, residents and NGOs to “build a joyful city where the environment and economy work together and humans coexist with nature.”
The reason for city government’s initiative on the public involvement is that such a public-private partnership is a critical factor to realize successful urban river regeneration project.
The followings are what the Taehwa River regeneration project has done;
Policy initiative: Water quality deterioration in the Taehwa River was mainly regarded as a consequence of the lack of environmental infrastructure, such as sewage treatment facilities, which was largely caused by the sudden increase in demand due to rapid urbanization. To tackle the negative effects of the deterioration of the Taehwa River, such as unattractive river banks for housing and recreation purposes as well as decreased ecological habitat, the Ulsan metropolitan government initiated a variety of long-term comprehensive policy measures.
Technical management: The most prominent characteristic of the Taehwa River Restoration Project is that the city government took a precautionary approach to river management. The majority of policy measures were concerned with the treatment of wastewater downstream of local rivers, using local sewage treatment plants in order to prevent the inflow of wastewater into the Taehwa River from households and industries. Given the comprehensive sewage scheme, municipalities at both the metropolitan and district levels have employed multi-year action plans for a sludge-dredging project for building pollutant-treatment and sewage-treatment facilities. In addition, a remote-sensing system is used to control wastewater from both households and industries that discharge over 200 square metres of wastewater per day.
Institutional arrangement for implementation: Recognizing that the river management has been fragmented in the past, the Ulsan metropolitan government took a comprehensive and integrated approach to the Taehwa River management, making sure that an overview existed of available resources and capacities and that implementing practices were specified. In that way, the Ulsan metropolitan government was able to deal with various policy agendas, including water quality, ecological recovery, urban regeneration and cultural and historical restoration. This means that in addition to plans for cleaning up the river, there were also plans to develop an ecological park and recreational facilities to enhance its use among the city population.