As an international student from South Korea, I like to take this opportunity to introduce some South Korea’s controversial environmental issues. First thing comes to my mind is the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project.
Simply put, the project proposed by the government is aiming at reviving four major rivers in South Korea. But, many citizens and environmental activists are very concerned about the project because they believe the project will cause negative impacts on several bird species and destroy the habitat. They also believe that estuaries will be impacted through increased rive pollution loads and an increase in shipping and infrastructure, rather than ecological restoration.
– December 2008: The river plan was proposed – Even while large-scale engineering work started, an environmental impact assessment was hastily conducted in approximately four month (Summer 2009)
– November 2009: The project was formally launched – The project entails by 2012 the “restoration” or “refurbishment” of the nation’s four largest rivers: the Han, the Nakdong, the Geum and the Yeongsan.
Government is promoting campaigns that the new dams will beautify the rivers and the project will increase recreational opportunities through the creation of over 1,056 miles of bicycle roads along the rivers, linked by cruise ships, rest areas and restaurants, and that the rivers will come alive with wildlife. According to Korean Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM), “most of the total budget of $17.8 billion will be spent by 2012 to build more than 16 new dams on the mainstreams of the four rivers and five new dams on their tributaries, to raise 87 existing irrigation dams, to strengthen 234 miles of river bank and to dredge 570 million cubic meters of sand and gravel from 429 miles long sections of the rivers to keep the water 13-20 ft deep of the four rivers and to strengthen 151 miles of river bank, and to raise nine existing irrigation dams in other tributaries and river basins.” (KFEM, July 31st 2009)
I still do not understand how the dams and bicycle roads will make the rivers alive with wildlife. Many people think that the project is for economy, not for environment, arguing government wanted to create more jobs and boost economy through the major constructions. I found that two Youtube clips are relevant. One is one of official campaign clips from the government and the other is a voice from environmental activists.