Nairobi/Bangkok, 22 November 2007-The United Nations Environment Programme and the Republic of Korea today signed an agreement for establishing a Trust Fund that addresses key environmental issues in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). The Republic of Korea will contribute US$4.4 million in total for this project. The first venture of its kind on the environment between the two Koreas, the Trust Fund will tackle forest depletion, declining water quality, air pollution, land degradation and biodiversity in DPR Korea. It will also support eco-housing initiatives as well as conservation and management of the Taedong watershed, environmental education, integrated environmental monitoring system, clean development mechanism and renewable energy technology.
"This multilateral cooperation with UNEP is of great significance for both South and North Korea and a huge step forward in addressing pressing environmental issues in DPR Korea,"said LEE Kyoo-Yong, Ph.D., Minister of Environment of the Republic of Korea.
The past decade has seen declining forests in DPR Korea due to timber production, firewood consumption, wild fires and insect attacks associated with drought, population growth and conversion of land to agricultural production. Pollution of rivers and streams has become severe in recent years, particularly in the Taedong River, which flows through central Pyongyang. DPR Korea's reliance on coal for power generation, industrial processes and domestic heating also led to serious air pollution, particularly in cities like Pyongyang and Hamhung.
To counter this, the country has encouraged community, youth and children's groups to establish tree nurseries and to participate in campaigns such as the National Tree Planting Day on March 2 every year. The government is currently strengthening legal control on effluent from factories by applying the"Polluter Pays Principle" and has initiated mass media campaigns to inform the public of the need for water conservation.
Environmental protection was also recognized as a priority issue and a prerequisite for sustainable development after a series of natural disasters in the mid-1990s led to a critical drop in yields of major crops. In 1998, DPR Korea revised its constitution and designated environmental protection as a priority over all productive practices and identified it as a prerequisite for sustainable development. National laws on forests, fisheries, water resources and marine pollution were also adopted.
"This agreement will build on the momentum that DPR Korea has begun. It will also go a long way in strengthening the spirit of cooperation between the two countries," said UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
Since 2000, UNEP has been working in partnership with the National Coordinating Committee for Environment and UNDP to strengthen the capacity of the national government for environmental assessment and monitoring and implementation of Multilateral Environmental Agreements. In 2004, UNEP and DPR Korea signed a Framework Agreement for Cooperation in Environment. The first DPR Korea State of the Environment report was also launched that year.
For more information, please contact:
Ms. Satwant Kaur, Regional Information Officer, United Nations Environment Programme, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, on Tel: +66 2 288-2314, email: Kaur@un.org.
Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, on Tel: 254 20 623084, Mobile: 254 733 632755 or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors:
The population of DPR Korea was 22 million during 1996 and growth trends show that by 2020 the population will be around 29 million.
In DPR Korea more than 80 percent of the land area consists of mountainous terrain where suitable land for the cultivation is limited. Severe degradation of land resources has been closely associated with natural disasters like landslides, flooding and the incidence of drought in recent years had substantial impacts on sustainable management of land resources, in particular agricultural production. The inundation of arable land by flooding in 1995 inflicted damage estimated at US$925 million.
The bulk of remaining forests are in the mountains. Seventy percent of this forest stands on slopes above 20o. Forest degradation in DPR Korea leads to: decrease of timber resources and habitats, weakness in control function of the biosphere on atmosphere and hydrology, loss of biological species, flooding and soil erosion.
With expansion of industry and population growth, problems related to water conservation and management are emerging. The demand for drinking water, public water supply and water for industrial and other needs is increasing with economic development and the improvement in standards of living.
Together with industrial development and population growth, air quality is deteriorating, particularly in urban and industrial areas. The major causes of air pollution have been associated with industrial boilers, kilns, motor vehicles in and around cities and industrial areas.
DPR Korea meets its primary energy demand by using domestic coal resources, releasing sulphur dioxide, suspended particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen. These are the main air pollutants associated with coal combustion. Primary energy consumption is expected to double in 2020.
The volume of municipal solid waste generated from Pyongyang is estimated to be 420 thousand tonnes per annum.