Thursday, 16 August 2012

Paldang Organic Farms

Some good news has just come from Korea – a success in the struggle for the preservation of the Paldang Organic Farmlands.


The Paldang region is the birthplace of modern Korean organic agriculture and has been the source of drinking water for the residents in the metropolitan areas of Seoul. The Korean government under its ambitious Four Rivers' Restoration Project planned to convert the region into bike trails and public parks, claiming that organic agriculture has a negative impact on the water quality of the region.


The struggle of the Paldang organic farmers was joined by the organic, environmental, religious and other social groups in Korea and it became symbolic in the national struggle against the Four Rivers' Restoration Project. Dumulmeori, a beautiful scenic haven in the Paldang region remained the last region to be developed under the Four Rivers' Restoration Project.


In October 2011, the IFOAM membership present at its 20th General Assembly unanimously passed a declaration in support of the Paldang farmers. The Declaration "openly supports the determined efforts to maintain organic management of the land inthe Paldang region" and recognized that Paldang as the birthplace of Korean organic agriculture "has a symbolic value for the national and the international organic movements."


On 12th August 2012, the Ministry of Land, Transportation and Maritime Affairs and the Committee for the Preservation of the Paldang Organic Farmlands came to an agreement on the preservation of the organic farmlands to be managed as a community ecological park, taking as example CERES of Australia, a measure that was suggested  by the organic farmers since two years ago. 
 The success of the negotiations was possible due largely to the mediation of the Catholic Church whose members held daily mass in the Paldang region for more than two years.


A common consultation body is to set up with the participation of the local governments of the Paldang region (Yangpyeong County and Gyeonggi Province), and the members of the Committee for the Preservation of the Paldang Organic Farmland. The budget for conversion into a community ecological park would be borne by the government. The organic farmlands will be preserved and Paldang will be a model of sustainable development in watersheds.  


Based on the peaceful resolution of the crisis and the public consensus reached, Paldang farmers "promise to strive to promote and preserve organic agriculture in Korea."
The Four Rivers' Restoration Project has proven to be an environmental disaster with floods and environmental damage in all areas developed under the project. Wetlands have been destroyed and the natural habitats of many migrating birds have disappeared. Contamination of the rivers have worsened and  flooding have become more frequent.
Many politicians are asking for the dismantling of the dams built as part of the Restoration Project and most of the presidential candidates have taken this up as their campaign slogan.  
The courage of the four farmers who remained and fought to the last will always be remembered as well as the unfailing solidarity of the Catholic Priests who held daily mass regardless of rain, snow or scorching heat.   
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