Historically, land filling has been the most common method of organised waste disposal in many places around the world. In South Korea, municipal solid waste has generally been disposed of at open landfill sites. However, during the past ten years, environmental protection issues have been a major concern and as a result, modern regional disposal facilities have replaced conventional, unsuitably located and poorly operated landfills. Today, municipal solid waste is increasingly viewed as a potential resource of alternative fuel and there is a strong trend toward recycling, compositing and combustion technologies. In collaboration with the drive to protect the environment the Seoul Metropolitan Government transformed one of its biggest landfills located in Najido, an island on a branch of the Han River of Seoul, Korea. Once a beautiful island known for its array of flowers, cabbage, radish, cantaloupes and peanuts which were widely cultivated, Najido became Seoul's official dump site at the end of the 1970's. For 15 years, this island was transformed into a huge mountain of garbage which depicted a mirror image of a pyramid, 34 times larger than The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. This landfill site was the answer to the waste disposal problem that arose, due to the rapid development of Seoul into a metropolitan city.
However, in 1993 when city officials realised that the site could no longer facilitate the city's expansion, Nanjido stopped operating as a waste dumpsite. It was World Cup 2002 that led to the rebirth of Nanjido as an eco-friendly area. The construction of the World Cup Stadium was accompanied by the area's transformation into an "eco-park". It was at this point, the Seoul government began to rethink their plans for Nanjido which led to the development of a major Landfill Recovery Project. The goals of this major initiative have been to restore the ecosystems of the once-beautiful island of Nanjido. This project focused on four areas of development: • Top soil levelling and Soil-Recovery. • Leachate Treatment.
• Extraction and Recycling of Landfill Gas. • Slope Stabilisation. This master plan commenced in 1994, with the completion of facilities for extraction and disposal of gas and contaminated water. Methane was one of the major gases generated from the Nanjido landfill. Korea has a rapidly growing economy that depends extensively on imported fuels which accounts for 98 per cent of its energy use. As a result, Korea has a compelling need to develop alternate fuel sources to enhance its energy security, economy and environment.
In this regard, the city of Seoul installed 100 methane gas extraction wells at the former Nanjido landfill site. Today, utilising gases from viable landfill sites has been an emerging business in the South Korean's solid waste treatment market. Subsequent to closure of the Nanjido landfill in 1993, the waste was covered with a 1-metre layer of soil mainly to block the odours. It was only then that the rejuvenation of the soil created life once more, bringing to existence naturalised plants which developed from seeds found in waste that usually grew well in dry soils. Najido has now turned green since the Landfill Recovery Project began. Untouched by humans, animals began to visit Nanjido and this soon became a sanctuary for their gathering. Also, in the winter season, this brought migratory birds to this newly rejuvenated landmass. The existence of this amazing development led to the rebirth of an eco friendly park that soon resided on the island of Nanjido. Currently, this area of 2.8 million square meters was transformed into five different theme parks equipped with conservation facilities for further revival of the diversified ecological system. Newly named World Cup Park encompasses small parks such as the Peace Park, Haneul Park, Noeul Park, Nanjicheon Park and Nanji Hangang Park.
Currently, Nanjido is undergoing the last stage of the Landfill Recovery Project which is the Land Stabilisation process, and is expected to be completed by the year 2020. This process consists of the construction of walls, deep into the ground intended to prevent the seepage of contaminated water into the Han River and streams. Methane and other gases were channelled into wells to provide heating for the World Cup Stadium and the surrounding residential areas. Today, the World Cup Park attracts 9.8 million visitors annually. The clean air and refreshing waters of the Hangang River, the flowers and trees living in harmony with the animals, represent nothing short of a spectacular environmental renewal. South Korea's development of a major landfill has since been a scenic experience which remains as a model for future generations.