The Korean government launched a 22.2 trillion won project to dredge and restore its four major rivers on November 10th. The 4-River Project aimed to restore the Han, Nakdong, Geum and Yeongsan rivers in order to prevent floods and cope with water shortages. This project is the main point of the ‘Green New Deal.’ It will build 15 small dams, dredge 570 million tons from riverbeds, and build 1,700 kilometers of bikeways.
The Lee Myung-bak administration insisted that 4-river project would increase the volume of water, improve its quality, get rid of concerns about both floods and droughts, and revive the local economy by creating 40 trillion won worth of economic value. Also, the government announced that it will spend a total of 22.2 trillion won ($17.8 billion) to complete the project by 2012. When the project is completed in December 2012, the government said the rivers will be opened up for transport and tourism.
President Lee Myung-bak had a public speech on the ceremony and laid the cornerstone of the 4-river project on Sunday, November 22nd. He said, “The 4-river project will make Korea be a more lively country and will bring ‘New Growth Power.’ He also stressed that “We must do the 4-river project because it will be beneficial to the country by creating a’more-than-expected’ value for the nation.”
There are pros and cons for the project. In reference to the political arguments, the opponents lashed out at the 4-river project as a replacement of Grand-Canal-Policy. Also, they indicated that the government even skipped preliminary environmental studies before working out concrete plans, such a huge project. The Ministry of Environment finished the assessment of its environmental impact in just five months, which most experts say should have been extended to at least one year, especially considering nature’s drastic changes through the four distinct seasons in this country.
“The project will benefit South Gyeongsang Province, which has suffered from poor water quality due to drought and other environmental factors. Also, by establishing multi-leisure spaces along the river, everybody will share the benefit.”, said one of local residents at the South Gyeongsang Province. Supporters insisted that this gigantic project will help prevent floods, which cost the nation an average of 2.7 trillion won per year in damage and 4.3 trillion won in repairs, meanwhile opponents condemned it for what they call ‘Economical Inefficiency and Disastrous Environmental Side-Effects.’
To address the issue, on November 8th, the Ministry of Environment said it had reached a conclusion that the controversial project, which is opposed to be completed by 2012, will play a key role in improving the water quality of the rivers and their ecological environment. According to the Ministry of Environment, on August 20th the 4-river project received high praise from the UNEP (United National Environment Program).
The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs still has a serious position with the 4-river project. They presented water shortage statistical data. In addition, they showed that South Korea’s water shortage is predicted to reach 800 million tons in 2011 and 1 billion tons in 2016. Also, the water quality of the four rivers has continued to deteriorate following the nation’s rapid industrialization and development.
Moreover, they said it will readjust the rivers and make 14 movable weirs around smaller streams of the four major rivers to help fish move freely. The fish-ways will be inclined gently and will also have small shallows and swamps around them to improve the water flow. On October 27th, they presented the designs of 16 weirs that will be built in the four major rivers. The designs were made by 11 construction companies including Daerim, Hyundai, SK, Daewoo, Samsung C&T Corporation, POSCO, Doosan, Hyundai Development Corporation, Samsung Heavy Industry and Hanyang, all of whom were selected as contractors and designers for the first detailed design for the Turn-Key form.
Gayajinsa, which is a place of religious ceremonies of 1,300 years’ tradition in Yangsan-si, South Gyeongsang Province can be submerged because of 4-river project. The government has a plan to widen 150m width of the Nakdong river. If construction launch the Nakdong river, it is inevitable to submerge Gayajinsa. Also, a lawmaker of Democratic Party argued that cultural heritage survey was not thoroughgoing enough.
The Democratic Party lawmaker Byeon Jae-il said, “An investigator of Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea nvestigated 64,000 pyeong (211571.2m²) per day on February to April. Investigators wasted most period of investigating time to write a report of 4-river project and they just did little formal survey.”
Because of the 4-river project in Mountain Jiri dam, South Gyeongsang Province Hamyang County Macheon-myeon will be submerged. People living in Macheon-myeon started walking performance to save natural environment and to protest 4-river project.
But November 10th, Korea Prime Minister Chung Un-chan told a meeting for the 4-river project will mean that less water is wasted, will improve water quality and will boost the economy of local provinces. Government still hold their ground to maintain 4-river project.
In conclusion, the Lee administration might have been encouraged by their success in the restoration of Cheonggyecheon in Seoul, but this 634 kilometer, gigantic project will finish in just 26 months. This will indeed show how this administration has hurried and is unprepared in their efforts to complete the river project while Lee is still in office. The government needs to take more time to assess and analyze the consequences of this major project, not only for the honor of the government but for entire country!