Recently, I spent much time trying to find a solution to the huge debts of Seoul Metropolitan Government and the disclosure of budget items. Another important issue I am working on is the water use fee.
The water use fee was adopted in 1998 as a measure for the improvement of the water quality in Paldang Lake, a major water source for Seoul. Each resident in Seoul pays 170 won a year per ton of tap water (as of 2011). Each household in Seoul has paid 40,000 won. All in all, residents in Seoul have paid about 150 billion won as of 2010 as water use fee.
The thing is, there has not been any improvement made for the water quality to speak of. The Ministry of Environment has reneged on its promise of improving the water quality in Paldang Lake to Level 1 by 2005.
This was one of the issues that came to my attention ahead of others after my inauguration as Mayor of Seoul. I do not have any objection to the idea that people in the upper reaches of the river should get compensation one way or another since there are things that they should sacrifice due to the need to maintain the good water quality of the river. But it appears that the water use fee paid by residents in Seoul has not been properly used to improve the water quality or for local residents in areas close to the water source for Seoul.
We at Seoul have asked for the disclosure of the details of how water use fees have been spent, establishment of a mid- and long-term plan for the use of such fees, stronger execution of the polluter-pays principle, settlement of problems of the Special Act on the Use of Waterfront Areas, and establishment of an independent body dedicated to water quality. Our position is that Seoul residents should not be asked to pay such fees if their reasonable requests are not met.
Following the promulgation of The Special Act on the Use of Waterfront Areas in 2012, many development projects are underway within 2km along the river. This goes against the wish of Seoul residents paying water use fees for the preservation of clean water in the upper reaches of the river. Thus, we at Seoul Metropolitan Government have stopped handing over the water use fees collected from Seoul residents to the Ministry of Environment.
I think you will agree that the money paid by residents in Seoul should be used properly for its intended purpose, i.e., improvement of water quality. We will wait for good news from the Ministry of Environment.