Rapid industrialization since 1970 has resulted in heavy air, water, and soil pollution and caused serious disruption to traditional communities whose livelihood is largely agriculture-based. Simultaneously, demographic changes have led to high density populations in urban areas, traffic congestion, increased property values and a higher cost of living.
This is in part due to the 2010 consolidation of three urban areas into one, when over one million people from different ethnic groups were voluntarily integrated into one urban area This poses the additional challenge of how to integrate different groups into one community.
Additionally, more than half of the citizens’ now live convenient lifestyles in apartment units due to household member sizes decreasing whilst life expectancy increases. This has also enhanced social cohesion as, previously, neighbors were more isolated.
City officials established the ‘2020 Environmental Project’ in 2006, setting the goal of reducing carbon emissions by 30% by 2020. In 2006 the project outlined four goals and eight strategies to improve the biodiversity of the city, including: expanding the city’s green spaces; maintaining parks and rivers; making a green transit system; improving recycling; increasing the renewable energy supply and building eco-communities.
The ‘Eutteum Neighborhood Building Project’ complements this plan as it is a voluntary citizen participation project that empowers communities to find local solutions to local problems. Throughout the city’s 62 administrative districts the neighborhood committees (consisting of citizens, experts, and local officials) identify community-specific problems. 980 committee members, including the leaders and the activists of the projects, create and suggest the villages’ environmental initiatives. As part of the project, residents compete for public funding with project proposals that aim to improve living conditions, curb pollution, and promote green lifestyles in the urban environment.
As part of the Local Community Capacity Building Project, 132 community projects were implemented in 2012 alone. Projects range from organic roof top gardens, enhanced water quality, tree planting, biodiversity and creating more green spaces. Some communities also created flea markets to improve recycling habits. All projects are geared towards creating urban spaces rich in biodiversity and improving the resiliency of the city by decreasing carbon consumption, improving waste management and recycling, and supplying safe food supplies. The city has implemented ‘Green Apartments Competitions’ to encourage greener lifestyle habits by apartment communities. This project has seen 50% of the 28,447 households participating. The result has been successful by reducing 13,933 tons of CO2. This reduction has been made possible by saving electricity and water, encouraging walking and cycling, and restoring local communities with through improved cooperation and communications.
In addition to this, twenty village streams were revitalized by planting aquatic plants, improving water quality and improving biodiversity. And through the creation of a new administrative structure, the city can stimulate citizen participations through their own community events as well as accumulate environmental and human resources of each village. Through these strategies citizens can realize the value of village assets and the importance of communities.
Thanks to these approaches, ‘The Citizens Self-autonomy Committee’ was established in every village (a committee organized by local citizens). The goal of the committee is to find solutions to community issues, environmental values as well as inspire local activities. The village community network was launched with 200 people to build village leaders’ capacity and supply opportunities for better education.
In addition, project organizers educate 493 ‘Green Leaders’ per year. These Green Leaders are key to educating the wider community about climate change and advising community initiatives and activities. A further 1,000 citizens were engaged in leadership training and community project groups, resulting in a more sustainable commitment from the local community. Lastly, the project has a strong social component in that it engages women, youth and the elderly as project leaders, thereby empowering these groups and combating social norms.