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Cheonggyecheon's great history

Cheonggyecheon (청계천) is an urbanized stream located in the capital Seoul. On its banks there is a public space for recreation that is the largest in the world, with an extension of almost 6 km.

The history of the stream is also something great. Its original name was Gaecheon (개천) and until 1406 the stream supplied the Korean population with drinking water.

But in the 20th century, after the Second World War and the separation of the Koreas, the stream became polluted.

This happened due to the several immigrants that settled around the stream, also with the great amount of garbage and the sewage that was dumped in it. Despite this, the banks of the stream were a place of commerce and irregular housing.

In the 70s, a large avenue and a viaduct were created that covered the river that disappeared from the view of the inhabitants of the capital Seoul. This construction increased the level of noise and air pollution due to local car traffic.

In 2002 Mayor Lee Myung-bak (이명박) decided to innovate by launching a bold and controversial revitalization plan. He decided to remove the avenue and the overpass that covered the stream. At first, people were concerned about the reduction of traffic routes, but then they agreed with the decision, as it would bring great benefit to people with the reintroduction of nature in the urban environment.

This idea of revitalization arose from the conversation of two professors at Yonsei University when they were stuck in the congestion of the overpass that covered the stream.

Thus, works begin. First, the avenue and the overpass that covered the stream were removed. The rubble from the viaduct and the avenue were recycled and reused in the restoration of Cheonggyecheon. Then alternatives were devised to reallocate irregular traders.

The popular participation was also important, more than 5,000,000 tiles were painted by residents of the capital. On the tiles, people expressed all their wishes for the future of Cheonggyecheon. These tiles were later placed on the banks of the stream and are seen by pedestrians who transit the place.

In addition, two pilasters that supported the viaduct tracks were left at the site and a museum was created so that the history of the Cheonggyecheon stream could be remembered.

Myung-bak had private funding for a huge revitalization project that has become a world reference in urban innovation projects.

After almost three years, in 2005 the works were completed and the public space around the Cheonggyecheon stream was ready.

Although the original waters of the Cheonggyecheon stream have already dried up, the water has been replaced and remains clean throughout its course allowing the Korean population to enjoy leisure, tranquility and fresh air.

Species of fish, birds, and insects increased significantly after the project was completed. Also the number of vehicles in Seoul decreased by 2.3%.

Cheonggyecheon has become the cultural and economic center of the city and the project is a reference worldwide, because it showed a new path to be taken when things seem to be unrecoverable.

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