Insights into Seoul’s Water and Waste Management

This July, we – Pipin Kurniawaty (CityNet’s secondment staff from Sidoarjo, Indonesia), Gloria Song, Heesoo Joo, Jisoo Lee, Felix Kalkowsky (CityNet interns) – had the opportunity to explore some of Seoul’s most remarkable infrastructure projects. Accompanied by our colleagues Mr. Hyoungjun Ahn and Ms. Jaeyoo Hyeon we visited the Ttukdo Arisu Water Purification Center in Seoul Forest, the Mapo Resource Recovery Facility and the Noeul ‘Sunset’ Park.

Seoul Forest & Ttukdo Arisu Water Purification Center

We started our field trip with a cycling tour through Seoul Forest. The forest is located at the northern shore of the Han River on Ttukseom (Ttuk Island). Stretching over 1.16 million m² of land, Seoul Forest consists of five parks: a Cultural Art Park, an Ecological Forest, a Nature Experience Study Field, Wetlands Ecological Field, and Han River Waterside Park. On the one hand, Seoul Forest is a natural habitat for wildlife animals and has an important ecological function. On the other hand, it is a recreational area that offers also educational services such as an outdoor nature classroom, a bird observatory and various playgrounds. Initially, Seoul Forest had served as hunting grounds for the royal family. More recently it had been used as golf course, horse racing track, and sports park until it was redeveloped as a recreational area and reopened for the public in 2005.
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Cycling through Seoul Forest is a good way to explore the different parks. However, on a hot summer day it is important to stay hydrated, and therefore our next stop was the Ttukdo Arisu Water Purification Center. At the center we could revitalize ourselves with fresh water. Afterwards, we had the opportunity to learn more about the purification process of the potable water we use every day. As the first water purification plant built in Korea, the facility has been supplying Seoul’s residents with drinking water from the Han River since 1908. Today, equipped with the latest technology and with a daily capacity of 750,000 m3, the Ttukdo Arisu Water Purification Plant supplies averagely 1.16 million residents with 400,000 m3 water per day. Furthermore the plant provides water for the Cheonggyecheon Stream.

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At the facility, which is operated by the Office of Waterworks of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, we could observe the different phases and applied filtering technologies of the comprehensive water purification process. To guarantee excellent water quality the processed water is constantly being monitored. Through the Seoul Water [Quality] Now System, Seoul’s citizens can access water quality information (turbidity, pH and residual chlorine) in real-time.

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Mapo Resource Recovery Facility & Noeul ‘Sunset’ Park
The Mapo Resource Recovery Facility was established in 2005 with a purpose to incinerate waste safely, processing 750 tons of waste load every day. The facility is located on a site, once a landfill called Nanji Island which contained approximately 92 million tons of garbage. Within the capital city Seoul, five resource recovery facilities process through the immense amount of general waste on a daily basis. The Mapo Resource Recovery Facility is not the largest waste incinerating facility however is one of the most significant operating facilities with its far advanced functions. With a turbine generator installed in 2011, the facility can cogenerate heat and electricity.

The facility uses the electricity it generates to power its operations and feeds the surplus into the electricity grid. The cogenerated heat is utilized by the Korea District Heating Corporation, which supplies neighboring households with district heating. Moreover, the ashes collected after the incineration process is sent to the Rotary Kiln to produce bricks. Overall, thanks to high advanced equipment and efficient usage of waste, the final reclaimed waste is only at 3%.

The Mapo facility is capable of capturing and destroying most of the toxic emissions including carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and dioxins, creating a safer and cleaner environment for the city. Mapo Resource Recovery Facility is an exemplary model in waste-to-energy practices that portrays the critical reason of recycling and facilitating efficient measures for solid waste treatment.


For our last field observation, we headed over to the Noeul ‘Sunset’ Park; an ecological park and one of the World Cup Parks that opened in 2002. The park was another part of the 15-year-old landfill that transformed into a beautiful camping site for visitors today. In order to prevent waste runoff and contamination of the surrounding environment, it took six years to stabilize the landfill with precautionary measures.

Electric vehicles are available to reach the top of the hill where the park is located. Noeul ‘Sunset’ Park is an open ground for camping and the other side of the hill is Haneul ‘Sky’ Park. Both parks provide a remarkable view of the Han River and the capital Seoul. It was difficult to believe such a beautiful area once was a landfill for so long. It truly is another substantial example that a cleaner and greener approach is feasible to better provide the public.

Further information

Seoul Forest:

Mapo Resource Recovery Facility: (English video content included)

Noeul ‘Sunset’ Park:

By Gloria Song & Felix Kalkowsky

Gloria Song, CityNet Intern
Gloria is from Fairfax, Virginia and is a graduate in Interpretation and Translation at Seoul University of Foreign Studies (SUFS) focusing toward sustainable development.


Felix Kalkowsky, CityNet Intern
With a background in urban planning Felix had worked as a climate change mitigation manager for a local government in Germany before he joined CityNet.

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