Lawmakers struggle during formation of budget sub-committee for four rivers project


Lawmakers struggle during formation of budget sub-committee for four rivers project

While the DP continues strong protest against the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project’s budget, the Cheong Wa Dae has again refused to grant a tripartite meeting

The Hankyoreh Posted on : Dec.18,2009 12:34 KST

The lawmakers from the opposition Democratic Party (DP) occupied the chairman’s seat at the Budget and Accounts Committee in order to prevent the budget of Four Major Rivers Restoration Project from passing at 9:35 a.m. on Dec. 17. Following the DP’s occupation of the chairman’s seat, there was some conflict between lawmakers from ruling Grand National Party (GNP) and DP when GNP lawmakers attempted to pull DP lawmakers out of the seat.

Lee Si-jong, DP lawmaker and representative on the committee, sitting in the chairman’s seat, said “We will wait until the Cheong Wa Dae (the presidential office in South Korea or Blue House) reveals its plans for the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project budget.” Lee added “Without knowing the Lee government’s position on the budget, we cannot allow the formation of the Sub-committee for Adjusting the Budget Bill.” Lawmakers from opposition Democratic Labor Party (DLP) including Chairman Kang Ki-kap joined the DP in efforts to occupy the chairman’s seat.

After occupying the chairman’s seat, Chung Sye-kyun, Chairman of the DP said during a general meeting of lawmakers, “The core of the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project is President Lee Myung-bak, because the GNP is merely acting as the president’s puppet.” Chung added, “It was the right course of action for the main opposition party to occupy the chairman’s seat.” Opposition party lawmakers also engaged in a sit-it demonstration far into the night.

However, Ahn Sang-soo, floor leader of GNP, criticized the DP’s move to occupy the chairman’s seat by saying, “Today the DP was a party of violence and occupation.” Ahn added, “It is right for us to form a Sub-committee for Adjusting the Budget Bill.”

Regarding the proposal made by GNP Chairman Chung Mong-joon of convening a tripartite meeting between President Lee Myung-bak and Chairmen of the GNP and DP to resolve the budget issue of the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project, Lee Dong-kwan, the senior presidential secretary for public affairs, said, “The budget issues should be discussed between ruling and opposition parties.”



Ambitious Rivers Project Meets a Sea of Opposition

Ambitious Rivers Project Meets a Sea of Opposition


New York Times

Published: December 13, 2009

NAJU, South Korea — Last month, on a gravelly embankment of the Youngsan River here, President Lee Myung-bak broke ground on a $19.2 billion public works project to remake the country’s four longest rivers, an ambitious and controversial undertaking that has spurred a national debate over what constitutes green development.

Mr. Lee says the project will generate thousands of jobs, improve water supply and quality, and prevent flooding, while providing a model for environmentally sound development.

But critics call it a political boondoggle, say it will be an environmental disaster and have sued to stop it. More South Koreans oppose the project than support it. And opponents charge that it is simply a repackaging of Mr. Lee’s earlier dream of linking the Han and Nakdong Rivers to create a “Grand Korean Waterway” across the nation, a proposal he abandoned in the face of widespread opposition.

Meanwhile engineers have already begun work to rebuild the Han, Nakdong, Kum and Youngsan Rivers, work that is likely to make Mr. Lee famous or infamous long after his five-year term ends in 2013 and could even determine who succeeds him.

“If they build a weir here, I fear it will trap the water and make the river more polluted than it is now,” said Choi Han-gon, 55, a farmer here who admits to conflicted feelings about the project. Gazing at a government billboard depicting the futuristic waterfront town promised to rise here within two years, he added, “I can also see why everyone will love it once it’s done.”

Mr. Lee, a former chief executive of the Hyundai construction company who is nicknamed the Bulldozer for his penchant for colossal engineering schemes, aims at nothing less than rethinking the ecology and economy of the rivers, some of which were heavily polluted during the country’s rapid industrialization. For three years, workers will dredge river bottoms and build dikes, reservoirs and hydroelectric power stations.

When the work is done, the government says, the rivers will “come alive” with tourists, sailboats and water sports enthusiasts. Sixteen futuristic-looking weirs will straddle the rivers, creating pristine lakes bordered by wetland parks. A 1,050-mile network of bike trails will run along the rivers.

Mr. Lee has engaged in this sort of development before, overcoming similar opposition and ultimately reaping a political fortune. As mayor of Seoul, in 2005, he silenced protests from urban shop owners and peeled back asphalt to reveal a long-forgotten, sewage-filled stream. He cleaned it and let it run again through downtown Seoul by pumping in water from the Han River.

Today, the four-mile Cheonggyecheon River is the capital’s most visible landmark. Its popularity helped win him the presidency in 2007.

Now, with an eye to his legacy, Mr. Lee is determined to repeat that success, this time on a national scale.

He wants the work done fast, in time for the 2012 parliamentary and presidential elections. Although he is constitutionally barred from seeking re-election, his governing Grand National Party bills the river project as the centerpiece of a Green New Deal, a strategy of economic growth through eco-friendly projects.

“As with the restoration of Cheonggyecheon, our efforts to save the four major rivers will generate greater benefits than we can even imagine now,” Mr. Lee told 2,000 guests at the groundbreaking ceremony on the Youngsan River.

The political opposition, however, calls it “quick-fix window-dressing” ahead of the 2012 elections. More than 400 environmental and other civic groups filed a joint lawsuit last month to stop the project. They argue that dredging river bottoms will disrupt the ecosystem and the new dams will create catch basins, worsening pollution and flooding.

“He just broke ground for an environmental catastrophe,” said Woo Sang-ho, spokesman of the main opposition Democratic Party. In Parliament, the opposition is trying to block further financing for the project, while Mr. Lee’s party, the majority, is determined to push it through.

After his decision to allow American beef imports last year was met with huge street protests, Mr. Lee’s approval ratings have begun to bounce back amid signs of economic recovery. Now he is courting a new generation of affluent Koreans who want a greener environment in their neighborhoods, a bet that paid off handsomely in Seoul.

That he chose this southwestern town for the official start of the four rivers project was no accident. The Youngsan River is one of the country’s most polluted, and many in the province support Mr. Lee’s efforts.

But the surrounding Cholla region is a traditional stronghold of the opposition, posing a dilemma for local politicians. At the groundbreaking event, the provincial governor and the mayor of Kwangju, the region’s main city — both members of the Democratic Party — praised the project.

Some of the project’s most avid supporters are those who live near the rivers.

“I have great expectations,” said Choi Hyun-ho, 61, a farmer in Yeoju, a Han River town south of Seoul. “Land prices here have risen 40 percent in the past two years.”

But some locals fear the loss of their traditional way of life.

“Those trucks and bulldozers are slashing the rivers around the country to build a personal monument for an engineering president and his friends: greedy developers and construction companies,” said Kim Jae-sun, 46, a farmer on the Youngsan River. “I don’t foresee any tourists coming here, just garbage from upstream piling up at the new dam, right in front of my village.”

Mr. Kim joined dozens of environmental activists who protested at Mr. Lee’s ceremony.

“You can’t improve water quality by building more dams,” said Park Mi-kyong, a local environmental activist who led the demonstration. “It’s best to let the river flow its natural course.”

Lee Yong-soo, 77, who lives in Mokpo, a town farther downstream, expressed nostalgia for 30 years ago when the water was so clean that children dived for clams and fishing boats sailed up the Youngsan to sell anchovies and skate fish to inland villages. But then the riverbed rose with layers of toxic silt. So he was willing to give the president the benefit of the doubt.

“He cleaned up that ditch in Seoul, didn’t he?” he said. “If he can clean up this river, everyone will applaud him.”

A version of this article appeared in print on December 14, 2009, on page A6 of the New York edition.



World Wetland Network's Letter on the 4 Rivers Project of Korea

11th December 2009

Dear President Lee Myung-Bak, Mr. Prime Minister Mr. Chung Un-chan, Chung Jong-hwan, Minister of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, and Mr. Lee Maanee, Minister of the Environment,

Re: Four Rivers Project, Republic of Korea (ROK)

The World Wetland Network (WWN), established at the Ramsar COP10 in Changwon, is a rapidly growing network of over 200 wetland Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) from across the world. A central committee of representatives from each continent, plus technical advisors, meets on a regular basis to plan, feedback and exchange information.

As a global network of wetland specialists, the WWN would like to advise the ROK government to cancel the Four Rivers Project.

In Europe, the US and Japan, there were numerous river engineering projects in past decades which included straightening river channels, dredging river beds, putting in built water management structures and re-enforcing banks. The world has since learnt from these mistakes. Disconnecting rivers from their flood plains, straightening and deepening them has led to huge problems with floods, erosion, poor water quality, changing ecological systems and reduced biodiversity, not to mention disconnecting local communities from their rivers. This of course also has an economic and human cost.

While the Four Rivers project in the ROK has been described as a ‘restoration’ project by its proponents, it is clear to the WWN and to all wetland experts around the world that the construction of new dams and river dredging cannot be called restoration. Further, the construction of bicycle trails and resort areas proposed as part of the Four Rivers project will increase disturbance to sensitive species and systems. As proposed, the Four Rivers project will lead to a massive loss of biodiversity and cause enormous environmental costs, some of which will be immediate, and others which will emerge longer-term as the rivers and watersheds can no longer function in a natural way.

The Four Rivers project, with its emphasis on construction is clearly contrary to the wise use principle that Ramsar promotes, and ignores existing Ramsar guidance on wetland restoration and management, environmental impact, and community involvement (e.g. resolution X.19: Wetlands and River Basin Management; VIII.16: Principles and guidelines for wetland restoration; resolution X.17: Environmental Impact Assessments; and resolution VII.8: Guidelines for establishing and strengthening local communities’ and indigenous people’s participation in the management of wetlands). In addition, it is clearly “unsustainable development” that will prevent the ROK from fulfilling its obligations to numerous international agreements, including Ramsar, the Millennium Development Goals and the Convention on Biological Diversity .

In contrast to the ROK Four Rivers project, in Europe, the Water Framework Directive is reversing these types of hard-engineering works, at great expense, to revert to a more naturally functioning, catchment-based approach. All member nations of the European Union have implemented the Water Framework Directive into their national policies. In the US, water companies now manage catchments to improve water quality, regulate flow naturally, and reduce the risk of flood. The WWN is happy to provide this information to decision-makers in the ROK, in order to assist the nation in its moves towards wetland conservation and wise use.

We therefore strongly urge the ROK to reconsider the Four Rivers Project. It is not too late to stop the destructive works, and to value your river systems as the natural treasures and providers that they are. It is not only in the interest of the ROK to do so, but also in the interest of all the nations of the East Asian - Australasian Flyway, and of all contracting parties to the Ramsar Convention.


Chris Rostron, Chair of WWN
Melissa Marin, Neotropics Representative, WWN
Esteban Biamonte, Secretary, WWN
Peter Lengyel, Europe Representative, WWN
Baboucarr Mbye, Africa Representative, WWN
Cassie Price, Oceania Representative, WWN
Tsuji Atsuo, Asia Representative, WWN
Becky Abel, North America Representative, WWN
Kashiwagi Minoru, Technical Advisor, WWN
Luc Hoogenstein, Technical Advisor, WWN



Wetland destruction means migratory birds will starve

Though some stories in the article below is not exactly correct, it is very nice to know that there are people in Australia concerned about wetlands conservation in South Korea.


Wetland destruction means migratory birds will starve

Leigh Dayton, Science writer
The Australian  
December 03, 2009 12:00AM

MIGRATORY shorebirds face starvation from the planned destruction of their wetland "pit stops" in South Korea.

The world's population of great knots has already plummeted 20 per cent because of previous wetland destruction in South Korea, but last month the Environment Ministry approved the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project. A day later, President Lee Myung-bak broke ground on the project, which includes 21 new dams, destruction of 87 old dams and dredging of almost 700km of rivers.

Birds such as the great knot, curlew sandpiper and tiny red-necked stint "winter" in coastal waters in Tasmania and southeastern Australia before flying to Siberia to breed in the northern summer.

Hobart-based shorebird ecologist Eric Woehler -- with Birds Tasmania and the University of Tasmania -- said migrating birds used South Korean wetlands to fuel up for the onward journey to Siberia.

"The birds have no alternative feeding areas. They feed on intertidal invertebrates like clams and shellfish that live in the mud, put on weight and then fly to the next staging area," said Dr Woehler.

"We've already seen the impact of the reclamation of the Sae Man Geum Wetland along South Korea's west coast.

"The reclamation has destroyed the food, so when the birds arrive they starve."

The Sae Man Geum Reclamation Project represents the world's largest tidal flat destruction, claims environmental group Friends of the Earth Korea.

The group estimated that, three years after it began in 2000, roughly 200,000 migrating birds failed to return to Australia.

And a tanker collision in January last year released 10,500 tonnes of crude oil off Sae Man Geum. "That was a double whammy for the birds," Dr Woehler said yesterday.

A spokesperson for Environment Minister Peter Garrett said the minister was aware of the new project but had no evidence it was driving the decline in waterbird populations. He said the minister would "seek advice" from Korea should evidence emerge.

According to FOEK, the new project will reclaim more than 1000sq km of critical coastal wetland for industry, roads and port developments.

Spokesperson Ma Yong-un said more than 100 river wetlands on the country's National Wetland Inventory would be affected, some linked to Korea's 11 Wetlands of International Importance, protected under the 1971 Ramsar convention.


Fraudulent “4 Rivers Project” Budget Plan

The Fraudulent “4 Major Rivers Restoration Project” Budget Plan

November 24, 2009
Korea Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM) / Friends of the Earth Korea

Almost all working expanses for large-scale engineering projects in South Korea increase drastically in comparison to what is originally planned. The still on-going Saemangeum Reclamation Project, the largest tidal flat destruction project in the world, initially estimated a working budget of 1.3 trillion Korean Won, but the Korean Research Institute for Human Settlements, a think tank on land use policy for the government, announced lasted year that a total budget of 18.9 trillion Won, or more than 14.5 times than the original budget, will be required. The Incheon International Airport constructed on reclaimed tidal flats cost 7.5 trillion Won, 2.2 times more than the initially planned budget of 3.4 trillion Won, and the Gyeongbu High-speed Railroad cost 18.4 trillion Won, 3.17 times more than initially reported.

The “4 Major Rivers Restoration Project” project is no exception. The original project budget announced in the project draft of December 2008 had been about 13.88 trillion Won but the project budget in the final draft announced in June 2009 was 22.2 trillion Won (about USD 19.2 billion), totaling a spike of 1.5 times from the original budget.

But even this 22.2 trillion KRW doesn’t include additional costs of 2 trillion KRW including a 1.5 trillion KRW worth government funded interest cost for Korea Water Resources Corporation (K-Water) which will have to issue corporate bonds to cover costs for its involvement in the 4 Rivers Project and the costs for supplement facilities collecting river water for urban and industrial use. It is also expected that the estimates for compensation cost for farmlands included in the 4 Rivers Project zone will ultimately double or even triple from what was originally planned. Therefore the project cost could end up requiring 30 to 40 trillion Won rather than the promised 22 trillion Won.

In the 2010 budget bill, the government proposed in late October to the National Assembly, parliament of South Korea, 3.5 trillion Won (about USD 3 billion) for the 4 Major Rivers project budget for deliberation. But according to the “2010 Budget Bill Analysis” published on November 3rd by the National Assembly Budget Office, the actual budget for the 4 Rivers Project will end up as much as at 5.33 trillion Won (about USD 4.6 billion), roughly 2 trillion Won more than the government argues. Though the government of South Korea maintains that the budget for the project next year is 3.5 trillion Won proposed by the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, it fails to include budgets from other ministries including budgets for river water quality improvement and ecological river restoration by the Ministry of Environment and raising existing irrigation dams by the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The National Assembly Budget Office pointed out that it lacked legal basis to classify the ecological river formations and bicycle road constructions of the 4 Rivers Project as national river management projects and recommended that their budgets should be reduced or that the projects be reorganized as different projects.

On November 12th, the National Assembly of South Korea has begun standing committee evaluations of the government’s proposed budget bill for the year 2010 worth 291.8 trillion KRW. But according to budget plans for 2010 submitted by the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs the 4 Major River project requires a total governmental investment of 3.5 trillion Won of which no specific budget details have been outlined.

The Democratic Party, the leading opposition party in South Korea, stated that a single line’s description for the budgets of the 4 Rivers Project was not enough for them to review and refused to review budget bills for the Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs Committee and Special Committee on Budget and Accounts until more specific budget details concerning the 4 Rivers Project are submitted.

The government submitted a 15-page long “the 4 Major Rivers Restoration Project Budget Bill for 2010” containing project costs and compensations for each project section involved on November 12th. On November 18th, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs submitted to the National Assembly a 71-page long “National River Management Project Reference Material” report.

But most of the details on the newly submitted reports remain the same in comparison to the original submissions with the exception of a few editing changes and information concerning involved sections. The specific details of involved sections list project summaries, construction and compensation costs for individual project sections as well as the names and locations of involved rivers and streams. Once again, only the total construction and compensation costs have been stated for individual sections without any references specifically clarifying where or how such budgets will be used in detail. The opposition parties including the Democratic Party are still refusing to review the budget.

There are comments even from members of the ruling Grand National Party criticizing such problems concerning the fraudulent and unreliable 4 Major Rivers budget plan.


South Korean Wetlands Under Threat after the Ramsar COP10

South Korean Wetlands Under Threat After the Ramsar COP10

November 19th
Korea Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM) / Friends of the Earth Korea

1. Riparian Wetlands

‘The Changwon Declaration On Human Well-being and Wetlands (Ramsar COP10 Resolution X.3)’ proposed by the South Korean government and adopted at the Ramsar COP10 resolves to urge decision makers of the world to demonstrate preservation and wise use of wetlands, stop destroying and damaging wetlands, and to preserve the natural ecological characters of wetlands. The Ramsar COP10 Resolution X.3 Annex clearly states that “many climate change policy responses for more water storage and transfers, as well as energy generation, if poorly implemented, may deleteriously impact wetlands” and “restoring wetlands and maintaining hydrological cycles is of utmost importance in responses for addressing climate change, flood mitigation, water supply, food provision and biodiversity conservation.”

COP10 Resolution X.19, ‘Wetlands and River Basin Management: Consolidated Scientific and Technical Guidance’ urges the “incorporation of wetland conservation and wise use to river basin management” and COP 10 Resolution X.24, ‘Climate Change and Wetlands’ also urges “maintaining the ecological characters of wetlands in national climate change mitigation and adaptation policies.”

Additionally, COP10 Resolution X.13, ‘The Status of Sites in the Ramsar Convention of International Importance’ requests that the South Korean government “advise the Ramsar Secretariat of any significant change in the ecological character of those Wetland Protection Areas and Ecosystem Landscape Conservation Areas that are wetlands.”
1) Four Major Rivers Restoration Project and its Impacts on Rivers’ Ecosystem

The South Korean government has started the ‘Four Major Rivers Restoration Project’ on November 10, 2009 constructing more than 20 new dams along the main streams of the four largest rivers in Korea (Han, Nakdong, Geum, and Yeongsan Rivers), dredging 570 million ㎥ of sediments, and reinforcing 377 km of riverbanks under the stated purpose of preparing for water shortage and floods due to climate change. If through this project the rivers’ depths are maintained at 4-6 meters the natural ecological characters of the 4 major rivers and surrounding riparian wetlands will be severely damaged; river shallows, sand bars and riparian wetlands may completely disappear.

Many diverse forms of inland wetlands of South Korea are formed along the four largest rivers of Korea which are subjected to the 4 Rivers Project. Upo Wetland, a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, and Junam Reservoir, a very important wetland in the City of Changwon, the venue of the Ramsar COP10 in 2008, are representative wetlands formed in floodplains of the Nakdong River.

There are many riparian wetlands such as sand bars all the way along the rivers from the upstream to downstream, which were formed by doposition of sands by the rivers. Such riparian wetlands are important stop-over sites for migratory waterbird species including endangered White-naped Cranes Grus vipio, and Hooded Cranes Grus monacha.

Estuaries of the four rivers have very large esturine wetlands such as the Han River Estuary, Geum River Estuary, Nakdong River Estuary all of which are internationally important for migratory waterbird species. Such important inland wetlands of Korea are formed by free flowing river’s dynamic activities of erosion, transportation and deposition. Thus damages to the natural flow of the four rivers will result in loss and degradation of inland wetlands of the country.

As much as 68 wildlife species protected by Korean domestic laws including freshwater fish species such as Nakdong Gudgeon Gobibotia naktongenis and Nakdong Nose Loach Koreocobitis naktongensis, plant species such as Fox Nut Euryale ferox and Aster altaicus var. uchiyamae Kitam, and Cockscomb Pearl Mussel Cristaria plicata are living and/or using in the project sites of 634 kilometres along the rivers. There are around 60 endemic freshwater fish species in Korea and most of them inhabit in shallows that massive dredging and construction of dams will affect negative impacts on freshwater fish diversity.

The Dalseong wetland, Damyang wetland and Nakdong River Estuary are three Wetland Protection Areas, which are included within the 4 Rivers Project area. Should dams be constructed up and downstream, massive dredging occurs and water depth changes in these areas the ecological characters of said protected areas will undergo significant changes.
South Korean government just finished the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in only four months including ecosystem survey, EIA report writing, collection collecting public opinions which is the one of the most important in a project development process. The government just finished the EIA, though it didn’t make a full study of ecosystems of the four rivers and could not provide an estimate for the impact from the project.

Though the 4 Rivers Project has started, around 70% of the South Korean people still do not support it. And, legal experts in colllaboration with civil society organizations are preparing to raise a lawsuit against the project as it violated River Act and National Finance Act. So far around 10,000 people joined as plaintiffs for the lawsuit.

2) Han River Estuary Wetland Protection Area

The government of Korea maintaining that we need to introduce more vessels as means of transport under the name of so-called Low Carbon Green Growth initiated construction of the Gyeong-In Canal, 18 kilometer long artificial canal which connects Seoul and Incheon. Local governments along the canal are putting forward many related projects to develop inland navigation. In order for large vessels to sail on the lower Han River, Sin-gok submerged weir is to be moved about 14km lower on the river in conjunction with Gyeongin Canal, Han River Renaissance of Seoul City and 6 Projects Linking the Han River of Gyeonggi Province. When the submerged dam is moved about downstream of the river and massive dredging take place for vessels to navigate, many parts of the brakish zone of the Han River Estuary Wetland Protection Area will be changed into freshwater ecosystem and important wetlands in the Wetland Protection Area such as Janghang Wetland and Sannam Wetland which are used as important wintering grounds for waterbirds including internationally endangered bird species such as White-naped Crane Grus vipio, Swan Goose Anser cygnoides, and Bean Geese Anser fabalis will be flooded and ecological character of the estuary will be greatly degraded.

The proposed Gimpo Cargo Terminal will replace large rice paddy fields which are usde as feeding grounds for White-naped Cranes, and wild ducks and geese and there is a plan to build a ferry and cargo terminal at Isanpo in the Han River Estuary Wetland Protection Area.

Rice paddy fields along the estuary which are important feeding grounds for wintering migratory waterbirds are disappearing due to large urban development project such as the Han River New Town development in Gimpo City which is a large new apartment project and is one of the 6 Projects Linking the Han River of Gyeonggi Province.
3) Bamseom (Bam Islet) Ecosystem Landscape Conservation Area

The Han River Canal currently being promoted by Seoul City also threatens wetland conservation along the lower areas of the Han River. The Han River Canal is being promoted as a part of the “Han River Renaissance” Project and plans to dredge 15 km of the Han River from Gimpo, Gyeunggi Province to Yongsan, Seoul at a depth of 6.3m and construct an international terminal at Yeoyido in Seoul to operate 5000 ton class vessels from Seoul to Incheon.

This project threatens to damange the ecological characters of the Bamseom (Bam Islet) Ecosystem Landscape Conservation Area which is in the middle of the Han River in Seoul and serves as an important urban wetland and wintering ground for thousands of migrating birds in the winter.

4) Bawineupgubi Wetland

The Bawineupgubbi Wetland is a riparian developed in a floodplain in the lower midstream part of the South Han River as sediments from upstreams has been deposited where the flow of the river is slow.

It is the only place in the world where an endangered endemic plant species Aster altaicus var. uchiyamae Kitam can be found. A rare plant species Sparganium stoloniferum and an endangered freshwater fish species Short-barbel Gudgeon Gobiobotia brevibarba are also found here. There also are various plant and bird species in the riparian wetland which deserves to be protected. However, the wetland is under a big threat from massive dredging in the area and flooding by dam construction in the downstream from it.

5) Geum River Estuary

The 400 kilometre long Geum River has formed a big estuarine wetland where it meets the Yellow Sea. There are large tidal flats and rice paddy fields at the stuary area which attracts large numbers of waterbird species including Baikal Teals Anas formosa, Oyestercatchers Haematopus ostralegus osculans and swans. It supports 300,000 to 500,000 Baikal Teals Anas formosa, 60-70% of Northeast Asian population of Oyestercatchers Haematopus ostralegus osculans, and more than 10% of the global population of Saunders's Gull Larus saundersi., which deserves protection. However the extensive dredging in the upstream of the river will affect the estuary’s natural ecosystem and its ecological character.

6) Hapgangni Wetland

The Hapgangni Wetland is a riparian wetland with large sand bars developed in the area where the Geum River and Miho River which is the largest tributary of the Geum River meet. Around 19,000 birds of 103 bird species were recorded at a study including 4,600 Bean Geese Anser fabalis, 3,500 Spot-billed Ducks Anas poecilorhyncha, 2,700 Mallards Anas platyrhynchos, 1,300 Common Teals Anas crecca. It supports 15 protected bird species including Steller’s Sea Eagle Haliaeetus pelagicus, White-tailed Sea Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla, Long-billed Plover Charadrius placidus, Baikal Teals Anas formosa, and Bean Geese Anser fabalis and 2 protected mammal species; Leopard Cat Felis bengalensis and Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra. The wetland is affected by dredging in the area and a dam construction in the downstream from the Four Rivers Project.

7) Nakdong River Estuary Wetland Protection Area

The Nakdong River estuary is one of South Korea’s most important wetlands; it supports the most winter migratory birds in both as its species diversity and abundance of species. The area is being protected such as a Wetland protection Area and a Natural Monuments, but the waterbird habitats are continuously deteriorating due to rapid urbanization and industrialization of surrounding areas. Furthermore, the Nakdong River estuary’s protected area are being lifted little by little as development occurs.

Additionally, we believe that the negative impacts on Nakdong River estuary’s Wetland Protection Areas due to large dredging projects upstream related to the 4 Rivers Project will be quite significant. Specifically, there is the currently planned construction of a second estuary dam gates west of Eulsukdo (Eulsuk Island) within Nakdong River estuary’s Wetland Protection Area which plans to undertake massive dredging and shore maintenance which will greatly damage the ecological character of the Nakdong River estuary.
8) Dalseong Wetland Protection Area

The Dalseong Wetland is located where the Nakadong River meets the Geumho River, a tributiary of the Nakdong River. It has well conserved riparian vegetation and is a stop-over and wintering site for Black Vuntures Aegypius monachus, Hooded Cranes Grus monacha, White-naped Cranes Grus vipio and Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica. The wetland will be impacted by dredging and dam construction due to the Four Rivers Project.

9) Haepyeong Wetland

The Haepyeong Wetland in Gumi is a riparian wetland with vast sand bars and reed beds along the midstream Nakdong River. 1,500ha of farm lands around the wetland are important feeding grounds for many migratory waterbirds, especially in winter. It was designated as an Wildlife Protection Area in 1998 and its area was expanded in 2001, but it was unlisted from the protection site list in April, 2008 due to big pressure for development in the surrounding area. It is regularly used as a stop-over site during the annual migration of approximately 2,000-4,000 Hooded Cranes Grus monacha and 400-800 White-naped Cranes Grus vipio. It also is an important wintering ground for thousands of White-fronted Geese Anser albifrons, Whooper Swans Cygnus cygnus and ducks. Such an important wetland will be severely impacted by the dredging and dam construction due to the Four Rivers Project.
10) Damyang Wetland Protection Area

The Damyang Wetland which was designated as a Wetland Protection Area in 2004 is a riparian in the upper midstream of the Yeongsan River with diverse forms of vegetations. It has a large willow forest and a bamboo forest along the river. It also has diverse forms of river habitats with shallows, deep pools and sand bars. Freshwater fish species including a protected fish species Fareastern Brook Lamprey Entosphenus reissneri and many endemic fish species such as Microphysogobio yaluensis can be found here. It also support bird species such as Little Egret Egretta garzetta, Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax, Green-backed Heron Butorides striatus and Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis. There is a large breeding sites for herons and egrets in the wetland. The Damyang Wetland Protection Area will be impacted from dredging and dam construction around it.

2. Coastal Wetlands

Ramsar COP10 Resolution X.22, ‘Promoting International Cooperation for the Conservation of Waterbird Flyways’ urges in its Annex that “the Yellow Sea is facing a multitude of threats, from pollution, siltation, and particularly past and ongoing large-scale conversion of mudflats for agricultural and urban and industrial development……Conservation of the Yellow Sea intertidal wetlands and associated habitats should be advanced at an ecosystem scale through integrated coastal zone management and international cooperation……Conservation measures should include the designation of the highest priority sites as Marine Protected Areas, and/or their listing as Ramsar sites.”

The Resolution X.22 states that the Conference of Contracting Parties “WELCOMES the statement by the Republic of Korea to the 35th meeting of Ramsar’s Standing Committee that intertidal mudflats should be preserved and that no large-scale reclamation projects are now being approved in the Republic of Korea, and ENCOURAGES all Contracting Parties in their efforts to protect such habitats in future and to monitor them and mitigate any past development impacts on or losses to them.”

But the Korean government has approved 11 new reclamation projects totaling 8.1㎢ of coastal wetlands including the Songdo tidal flat in Incheon which meets the criteria for the wetland of international importance, in March of 2009, just four months after the Ramsar COP10, and 11 additional reclamation projects totaling 1.06㎢ were approved as well on November 9th, 2009. Not only is this the case, but many additional damages to coastal wetlands are being carried out throughout the nation including the Saemangeum reclamation project which is the single largest tidal flat destruction going-on in the world.

1) Songdo Tidal Flat

Over 140㎢ of tidal flats in Incheon have fallen victim to or are being destroyed by reclamation projects to provide lands for Seoul metropolitan area’s landfill site, Incheon International Airport, Songdo New Town development and other projects. And the 7.16㎢ large Songdo 11th Zone tidal flat, which is the last inland tidal flat at Incheon, was aproved for reclamation last March with plans to develop the Incheon Free Economic Zone on the area. The Songdo tidal flat is an internationally important wetland that is visited by approximately 40,000 shorebirds each year and used by 178 species of birds including the Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor, the Saunder’s gull Larus saundersi, the Relict Gull Larus relictus, the Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus, and the Little Tern Sterna albifrons. 17 endangered species designated by the Korean Ministry of Environment inhabit the area, and 9 pairs of Black-faced Spoonbills bred at nearby Namdong water detention pond and sought food at the Songdo tidal flat.
2) Ganghwado (Ganghwa Island) Tidal Flat and Black-faced Spoonbill Breeding Site

One of the world’s largest tidal power plant is being planned in Korea. The Ganghwa tidal power project will take place by constructing a 6.5 km long artificial sea wall that connects the four islands of Ganghwado, Gyodongdo, Seogumdo and Sukmodo islands. This area is the only wholly preserved estuary tidal flat in Korea and is one of the most productive river estuary zones, providing habitat to countless migratory birds and fish species.

If the Ganghwa tidal power plant is constructed this will cut off the tidal flow and environmental damage such as change in ocean currents and underwater environment, seawater quality degradation, loss of tidal flats, destruction of breeding grounds for migratory fish and food web destruction for marine ecosystems will be inevitable. This region is particularly special as it is designated as the Korea’s Natural Monument No. 419 under the title of ‘Ganghwa tidal flat and Black-faced Spoonbill Breeding Sites’ Including Yudo and Yodo, the largest breeding grounds for the Black-faced Spoonbill, 200~300 Black-faced Spoonbills breed in the area around the proposed project site and should the Ganghwa tidal power plant be constructed the negative impact on Black-faced Spoonbill breeding will be inevitable.

3) Tidal Flat at the Southern End of Ganghwado (Ganghwa Island) and the Jangbongdo (Jangbong Island) Tidal Flat Wetland Protection Area

The tidal flat at the Southern end of Ganghwa Island is located on the East Asian—Australian flyway for various waterbirds and is an important tidal flat that approximately 30,000 shorebirds use as staging sites during their annual migration. Important waterbirds such as the Chinese Egret Eugretta eulophotes, Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor, Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia, Red-crowned Crane Grus japonensis, White-naped Crane Grus vipio, Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus, Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus, Spotted Greenshank Tringa guttifer, Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis, and the Saunder’s Gull Larus saundersi are observed here. 10 to 20 Red-crowned Cranes spend the winter here every year and it was identified that 322 Black-faced Spoonbills inhabit the tidal flat at the Southern end of Ganghwa Island in 2009.

But the Incheon Bay Tidal Power Project involving the construction of 15.09km of artificial sea wall that connects Ganghwa Island and Yeongjong Island is currently under planning and this partially includes the Jangbongdo Tidal Flat Wetland Protection Area. The construction of sea walls and tidal power plants around the tidal flat will negatively impact the natural tidal flow which is critical to maintaining the tidal flat’s ecological character, and the water level within the sea walls will increase by approximately 2 meters greatly impacting the tidal flat ecosystem.

4) Garorim Bay Tidal Flat

The Garorim Bay tidal flat was identified as the best preserved tidal flat in Korea according to a 2005 research by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs & Fisheries (MOMAF), and once again evaluated as having the most environmental value in the nation in a 2007 MOMAF Environmental Value Analysis contract research. The Bay is one of only two habitats in Korea for the Spotted Seal Phoca largha, classified as an Endangered Species Category Ⅱ by the Ministry of Environment but the area is also under serious threat; 80㎢ of tidal flats is under danger of having its ecological character damaged by the Garorim Bay Tidal Power Project.
Tidal power projects in Korea were already concluded in the past as having no economical benefit when including the environmental costs but are being pursued once again as part of the renewable energy development project in reaction to climate change conventions under the name of “green growth.”

Such projects not only do not match the definition of “renewable energy” or the objectives of the climate change conventions but the seawalls and other artificial constructs also go against government policies to restore damaged tidal flats.

5) Gangjeong Coastal and Marine Area in Jejudo (Jeju Island)

Rare soft coral communities have developed in the ocean adjacent to Jeju’s Gangjeong coast and is registered and protected as a Natural Monument, and is in the Buffer Zone of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. But a new naval base is scheduled to be constructed in an approximate 5 ㎢ wide area in this region, and approximately 40% of the base site will be constructed on reclaimed land. The construction of such a new naval base on Jeju Island, which boasts itself as the Island of Peace, and the operations of naval warships in the region are expected to negatively impact surrounding coastal wetlands and marine ecosystem conservation.
6) Saemangeum Tidal Flat

Saemangeum tidal flat used to be the nation’s largest tidal flat and the single most important stop-over sites for migratory shorebirds in the country but the reclamation project that started in 1991 has significantly changed the tidal flat’s ecological character and the number of regularly visiting migratory shorebirds has dramatically decreased. Furthermore the water quality of the artificial lake within the seawall is severely deteriorating. The reclamation project originally proposed to create farmlands but the government is now only utilizing 30% of the reclaimed land as farmlands and the rest are being planned to be used for various purposes including industrial and metropolitan area development.

Resolution X.13 ‘The Status of Sites in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance’ recommended that the government of the Republic of Korea continue to provide the Secretary General with updated reports of monitoring concerning the ecological impact, especially in relation to population declines in internationally important migratory waterbird populations of the Saemangeum land-claim. As seen, the ecological value that the Saemangeum tidal flat holds is most significant but maintaining the ecological character of the Saemangeum tidal flat in accordance to the mitigation measures concerning ecological impacts presented by the Republic of Korean government will prove to be difficult to achieve its goals.

※ For more information please contact Mr. Ma Yong-un at KFEM/FoE Korea at ma@kfem.or.kr

Implementation of Changwon Declaration in Korea?

South Korean Wetland NGOs sent a letter to the government of S. Korea asking if the government is implementing the Changwon Declaration which  was proposed by the Korean government and adopted at the Ramsar COP10 in 2008 in Changwon, S. Korea.

Inquiry to the Republic of Korea Government
regarding the implementation of
'The Changwon Declaration on Human Well-being and Wetlands', Resolutions X.3 of the Ramsar 10th Conference of the Parties

In a speech during the opening ceremony of Ramsar COP 10 held in Changwon, Korea, from October 28 to November 4 last year, President Lee Myung-bak declared that "The Korean government will make South Korea an exemplary member of the Ramsar convention, as we continuously increase Wetlands Protection Area and Ramsar site."

The Conference of the Contracting Parties showed its thanks and appreciation to the Republic of Korea for its "efficient, comprehensive and thorough preparations which ensured the smooth running of the COP and all its associated events" and it also expressed "its gratitude to His Excellency Lee Myung-bak, President of the Republic of Korea for his outstanding commitment to and support for wetland conservation" through Ramsar COP 10 Resolution X.32.

The government of the Republic of Korea was complimented "for its initiative in preparing the Resolution X.3 'The Changwon Declaration on Human Well-being and Wetlands' to provide an agenda for future action on wetlands for the people of the world" and was welcomed in particular "for its plan to inaugurate the Ramsar Regional Centre for East Asia to enhance implementation of the Ramsar Convention" through Ramsar COP10 Resolution X.32.13.

The Main Contents and Meanings of the Changwon Declaration

1. The Changwon Declaration recognizes that "efforts need to be redoubled to halt and reverse present declines of wetlands regarding the vital contribution of wetlands to human well-being, livelihoods and human health, as well as to biodiversity". It also recognizes "the urgent need for governments, international organizations, the private sector and civil society to understand more fully the roles they can and should play in securing the future health of wetlands and the maintenance of their ecological character". It emphasizes "the importance of collaboration and partnerships between governments and local communities for the conservation and wise use of wetlands", and highlighted "the shared responsibility of both governments and local communities in the implementation of the Ramsar Convention".

2. It strongly urges "the Contracting Parties and other governments to encourage their heads of state, parliaments, private sector, civil society and all government sectors and agencies responsible for activities affecting wetlands, especially in order to respond to the call for wetlands embodied in the Declaration." It expresses its special gratitude to "the government of Korea for declared intention to champion the dissemination and uptake of this Declaration in future."

3. The Chanagwon Declaration states that "Declarations have been issued from many international environmental conferences. It aims not to cover "standard" ground, but to add value by being directed primarily to audiences beyond the Ramsar Convention itself, and to opportunities for action, offering positive, practical action steps, and defining the ways in which the Declaration’s impact will be assured." It even "instructs the Ramsar Secretariat to consolidate, as necessary, into this Resolution any text language adopted by this Conference of Parties, so as to achieve consistency of terminologies."

4. The Changwon Declaration shows that the degradation and loss of wetlands in turn negatively affects food production, human health, and economic development, and it can increase societal conflict. Also, instead of being demand-driven, which promotes over-allocation of water, we need to recognize that there is often not enough water to meet our direct human needs and to maintain the wetlands we need. Environmental flows, placing upper limits on water allocations (water ‘caps’), and new water management legislation, must be strengthened. In order to close this “water gap”, we need to use our available water more efficiently, stop our wetlands from becoming degraded or lost, and restore our wetlands that are already degraded.

5. It shows that destruction and damage of wetlands contributes to climate changes. The effects of climate changes, such as floods, droughts, and famine, weaken human beings. In order to cope with climate changes, it is necessary to restore wetlands, maintain waters' hydrological circulation, and intelligently use and preserve wetlands.

Not only was the Changwon Declaration proposed and adopted for this purpose, a plan was submitted regarding how to use the Resolution in the future and the Korean government even received special thanks for its initiative in preparing the declaration. The government must set the example for practicing "conservation and wise use of all wetlands not only the local and national levels, but also the international level through international cooperation."

Questions Regarding the Korean Government's Implementation of the Changwon Declaration.

The Korea Wetlands NGO Network Preparation Committee welcomes the First Meeting of Changwon Declaration Implementation Network that will be held in Changwon, the site of the Ramsar Convention 10th Conference of the Parties, on November 18th and 19th, which will be attended by Dr. Nick Davidson, Deputy Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention Secretariat, members of the standing committee, international wetland experts, officials from the Korean Ministry of Environment and others. We hope that, through this meeting, there will be close reviews on how the Changwon Declaration has been being implemented in Korea, which is one of the most important results of the Ramsar COP10.

In addition, we ask Korean government to provide sincere answers to the following questions regarding how well the various development projects being carried out by the government, including the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project, are keeping the spirit of the Changwon Declaration, and what the government is doing to implement the Declaration.

Question 1) 4 Major Rivers Restoration Project

According to the master plan of the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project, it is to secure 1.3 billion cubic meters of additional water for the future water shortage, to build more than 16 new dams on the mainstreams of the four rivers and 5 new dams on their tributaries, to reinforce 377km of riverbanks and to dredge 570 million cubic meters of sediments for the flood control due to climate changes.

Dam constructions and extensive dredging works will cause to remove river shallows, sand bars and riparian wetlands. Dozens of endemic freshwater fish species in the country will be threatened by blockage of free flow of river water and maintenance of the 4-6m deep water which lead to changes in character of freshwater habitats.

Many important riparian wetlands along the rivers, which are important habitats for diverse forms of life including internationally endangered bird species, such as White-naped Cranes Grus vipio, using riparian wetlands for staging sites during their migration are predicted to be degraded.

We would like to ask Korean government whether this project is indeed "efforts to halt and reverse the degradation and loss of wetlands" and a work "in securing the future health of wetlands and the maintenance of their ecological character".

Question 2. Please define how well the various development projects below meet the spirit of the Changwon Declaration.

1) Saemangeum reclamation project

Saemangeum reclamation project is "the world's largest reclamation project". The original purpose of the project was to create land for agriculture. However, its original plan of agricultural use has flipped to be only 30% into agricultural use and the rest into either industrial or other purposes.

Reclamations of tidal flats have great negative impacts on ecosystems. From the results of Saemangeum Shorebird Monitoring Program (SSMP) through 2006 and 2008 by Australian Wader Studies Group and Birds Korea, the number of shorebirds recorded in Saemangeum areas has been greatly decreased more than 70% in two years. Due to the loss of the tidal flats as the single most important shorebird staging area, likewise, the world population of Great Knot has been known to drop down about 20%, which caused big concern from international society.

Please answer whether this Saemangeum reclamation project meet the contents of the Changwon Declaration which urges that "decision-making should, wherever possible, give priority to safeguarding naturally-functioning wetlands" according to 'land use change, biodiversity and wetlands' and "more actions are required to address the root causes of the loss of biodiversity and to reverse these losses."

2) Construction of New International Airport, Eomgung Bridge, and the 2nd Nakdong River Estuarine Barrage as an addition to the Nakdong River Estuary.

The Nakdong River Estuary is one the most important wetlands in Korea in terms of overall wetland characters such as its species diversity and abundance of species.

However, the government of Korea is conducting the feasibility study on construction of the New International Airport which will have a direct impact on the estuary.

Moreover, the Busan city government is planning to build a new bridge dividing a riverside which plays a crucial role as a feeding ground for winter migratory birds in the Nakdong river estuary.

Also, as a part of the Four Major Rivers Project, construction of the 2nd estuarine barrage is scheduled to take place in the western Eulsukdo on the Nakdong river. Along with that, dredging and bank protection works will follow at the upper and lower parts of the river barrage. These ongoing construction plans will cause serious damage to functions as wintering sites for migratory birds and an ecological character of the Nakdong river estuary which are protected as a Wetland Protection Area.

3) Incheon Bay and Ganghwa, Garorim Bay Tidal Power Plants Projects.

The mega tidal power plants will be built in the largest and internationally important tidal flats of Ganghwa Island which overlaps with protected Natural Monument and in Jangbongdo (Jangbong Island) tidal flat, a Wetland Protection Area.

This project will have a significant negative impact on feeding, breeding and staging sites for shorebirds as well as an endangered migratory waterbird, the Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor.

According to a research by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of South Korea in 2005, the tidal flats of Garorim Bay are the most well conserved tidal flats in the country. And according to a research commissioned by the same ministry in 2007, the bay's environmental values were rated as the highest among all the coastal areas of the country.

The bay is one of only two habitats of the Spotted Seal Phoca largha in South Korea. This species, which is protected under Endangered Species Category Ⅱ designated by the Ministry of Environment of Korea, is also under threat by the proposed Garorim Bay Tidal Power Project.

4) Construction of Gyeongin Canal and Development Plan of Han River Estuary

Unlike other major river estuaries in Korea, there is no estuarine barrage at the Han River Estuary. The natural scenery, animals, and plants have been well preserved in its brackish water zone where freshwater meets oceanic water.

But in order for large ships to sail on the lower Han river, Sin-gok submerged weir is to be moved about 14km lower on the river in conjunction with Gyeongin Canal, Han River Renaissance of Seoul City and 6 Projects Linking the Han River of Gyeonggi Province. Massive dredging operations are planned as well. In this case, ecosystem in the brackish water zone on the lower Han river will be mostly desalinized. The Janghang and Sannam Wetlands, which are core areas in the Han River Estuary Wetland Protection Area and wintering sites for waterbirds including internationally endangered bird species such as White-naped Crane Grus vipio, Swan Goose Anser cygnoides, and Bean Goose Anser fabalis will be flooded and ecological character of the estuary will be greatly degraded.

5) Reclamation of Songdo Tidal Flat

7.16 square kilometers of tidal flat reclamation at Songdo Zone 11, the last remaining tidal flat on the Incheon City's mainland part, was approved in last March for the expansion of Incheon Free Economic Zone.

Sondo tidal flat is annually visited by about 40,000 waterbirds and used by 178 species of birds such as Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor, Relict Gull Larus relictus, and Saunders’s Gull Larus saundersi, which can meet the criteria to be a wetland of international importance. Last summer, 9 pairs of Black-faced spoonbills bred at a small rock island in the Namdong detention pond and found food at the Songdo tidal flat.

6) Jeju Naval Base Construction in Gangjeong Village.

The soft coral areas off coast the Gangjeong Village in Jeju Island, which is protected as a Natural Monument and is included in the Buffer Zone of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, are under threat by a project to build a new naval base. In order to build the base, important part of the coastal wetland is scheduled to be reclaimed. Therefore, it will have a negative impact on the coastal ecosystems of Gangjeong Village.

 7) Rice Paddies and biodiversity

Though the governments of South Korea and Japan jointly proposed Resolution X.31 'Enhancing biodiversity in rice paddies as wetland systems' which encouraged the "Contracting Parties to promote research on flora, fauna and ecological functions in rice paddies and on the cultures that have evolved within rice-farming communities that have maintained the ecological value of rice paddies as wetland systems" and invited "Contracting Parties to consider offering recognition and/or protection to such sites through, for example, their designation as Wetlands of international Importance". We would like to hear what kind of efforts the government of Korea have given to implement the resolution.

November 18, 2009

Kim Duck-sung, Chairperson
Korea Wetlands NGO Network Preparation Committee

Contact: Park Chung-Rok, Co-Representative of Wetlands and Birds Korea (011-9906-6314, greennd@hanmail.net)


Protest against the 4 Rivers Project - Han River, Nov. 17, 2009

South Korean environmental organizations, religious leaders and politicians from opposition parties joined a protest against the Four Rivers Project amid freezing temperature at a sandbar on the South Han River in Yeoju, Kroea, on November 17, 2009.  Such sandbars will be romoved by the massive dredging due to the 4 Rivers Project.

▲ Stop the 4 Rivers Project  ⓒ Park Jong-hak/KFEM

▲ Reverend  Jigwan, a Buddhist monk and environmentalist gave a speech on the 4 Rivers Project ⓒ Park Jong-hak/KFEM

▲ Stop the 4 Rivers Project ⓒ Park Jong-hak/KFEM


Opposition parties’ lawmakers ramp up to defeat Four Rivers Restoration Project budget


DLP Lawmaker Woo Wi-yeong calls it the worst civil engineering project ever, and DP lawmakers prepare legal actions to suspend construction

The Hankyoreh    Posted on : Nov.10,2009 12:06 KST
Opposition parties’ lawmakers, who have been demanding the termination of the “Four Rivers Restoration Project” that the Lee administration announced will begin Tuesday, are calling the project a dictatorial scam and have launched a full-scale campaign to suspend construction, including filing for an injunction. Moreover, opponents to the Four Rivers Restoration Project have agreed on a plan to cut the entire 23 trillion Won budget for the project with the exception of the 1 trillion Won earmarked for water quality improvement.  

Democratic Party (DP) Chairman Chung Sye-kyun slammed the Lee administration during a party supreme council meeting Monday, and said he was enraged that the administration’s dictatorial behavior was manifesting in pet projects such as this one. He added the administration has questioned why the public refers to it as a “dictatorship,” but the label is fitting when it decides to move forward unilaterally as it is doing now.

Chung said the administration had not conducted a proper feasibility study or a cultural properties study, and it conducted a slap-dash environmental impact assessment on the 634-kilometer area, completing it in just four months with unconvincing findings. He also said that the parliamentary screening of the budget put fourth by the administration has yet to begin, and that it is intorelable that the administration has commenced construction for the Four Rivers Restoration Project based on the assumption that the National Assembly will be passing the budget bill in its original form.

The DP is also actively considering filing an administrative suit or applying for a provisional disposition to suspend the project, which is suspected of being the “Grand Canal” project in disguise. During the party’s supreme council discussion on the Four Rivers Restoration Project, Lawmaker Park Ju-seon provided the argument that it violates the National Finance Law, the Rivers Law, the Basic Law on Environmental Policy and the Korea Water Resources Corporation Law.

The DP is also warning of a “budget struggle” in an attempt to cut the Four Rivers Restoration Project budget. An official connected to the party’s parliamentary leadership said the DP’s position is that it cannot allow the 23 trillion Won earmarked for the project, with the exception of the 1 trillion Won for flood damage and water quality improvement.

In a statement Monday, Woo Wi-yeong, spokesperson for the Democratic Labor Party, called the Four Rivers Restoration Project the worst civil engineering project since the time of Dangun, as well as the greatest scam. He said the arrogance and go-it-alone tendencies of the administration that is pushing forward with project construction, regards the project as an established fact, and believes it can hush up any further debate on the matter has come to a dangerous place.

We cannot bear the responsibility of allowing the destruction of the four great rivers


[Editorial] We cannot bear the responsibility of allowing the destruction of the four great rivers

The Hankyoreh
Posted on : Nov.10,2009 12:04 KST Modified on : Nov.10,2009 12:06 KST

The Four Rivers Restoration Project begins in earnest today. The construction is to begin immediately, after seemingly waiting for the findings of the Ministry of Environment‘s (MOE) environmental impact assessment. All sorts of concerns about reductions in water quality and destruction of the environment were completely ignored. It appears it is impossible to hope for any more rational discussion with an administration that remains obstinate about pushing the project.

Just imagining the effects of executing the Four Rivers Restoration Project as planned is horrible. Instead of flowing, river water will rot as it is trapped behind dams and weirs, while the wildlife growing on the riverbanks will die under dikes of concrete. Most of the aquatic ecology will be destroyed as river floors are dredged, and it is clear that the terrace land by the four rivers will be suffocated underneath cement as 1,700 kilometers of bicycle routes are built. Indiscriminate developmentalists are mangling our four main rivers, the Han, Nakdong, Guem and the Youngsan, which should be wholly preserved and bequeathed to our descendants.

The greatest responsibility for the Four Rivers Restoration Project coming to this point lays with President Lee Myung-bak. He is using his success with the Cheonggyecheon restoration project accomplished during his time as Seoul mayor to push forward this project. The restoration of the Cheonggyecheon, no more than a neighborhood stream, and the restoration of the four great rivers that feed the lands of southern Korea, are incomparable matters. The aim to complete this project that will cost taxpayers an estimated 20 trillion Won in just two to three years is nothing more than an act of greed intent on achieving a project of scale during his term. The four rivers are about to be destroyed as a result of President Lee’s egoism that stems from ignorance about the environment.

Minister of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs Chung Jong-hwan and Environment Minister Lee Maan-ee will be unable to escape historical responsibility as accessories to the destruction of the four rivers. Chung, who styles himself a “Little MB” to a sickening extent, has been pushing the Four Rivers Restoration Project using all sorts of expedients and illegalities. In particular, Lee, by tacitly approving the environmental destruction caused by the Four Rivers project, has abandoned his role as Environment Minister. He will be recorded as a blot on South Korea’s history of environmental policy.

At any rate, construction for the Four Rivers Restoration Project commences today. It will soon be revealed just how much the four rivers will be destroyed as a result. We cannot just standby and watch it happen. To do so is ultimately no different than participating in the destruction of the four rivers. For this reason, just as the full-scale launch of the Four Rivers Restoration Project takes place today, so must the launch of a full-scale fight to save our four great rivers.

UN CESCR's concern over the 4 Rivers Project

CESCR draws a grim picture of human rights in South Korea

UN representatives points out concerns with migrant workers’ issues and forced evictions, and suggests funds for river project could be better spent elsewhere

The Hankyoreh    Posted on : Nov.13,2009 12:01 KST

Experts of the United Nations (UN) Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has been examining current issues in South Korea, including the Yongsan tragedy, through the lens of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) at the UN building located in Geneva, Nov. 11. The experts stated that the Yongsan tragedy might have resulted from excessive police force and the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project has been pursued without sufficient discussion. This is results of discussion on the South Korean issue.

On the National Human Rights Commission of Korea

An expert questioned why the staff of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) had been reduced by 30 percent. Another expert noted that its budget had also been drastically reduced and that the Chairman of the Commission does not have competence in human rights. One expert wondered if the ICESCR was considered non-judiciable by the Republic of Korea. If so, the government would be denying even the minimum standards applicable to the provisions of the ICESCR.

On pursuing the privatization of public services

One expert said that the privatization of certain public services, such as healthcare, water and electricity, in the Republic of Korea has become a cause of concern because the state risks being no longer able to comply with its obligations under the ICESCR. The expert asked how the state party anticipates being able to comply with the essential minimum obligations to protect economic, social and cultural rights from the influence of third parties.

On the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project

Regarding development projects, an expert noted that the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project is being criticized because of its tremendous budget allocation, and because the economic return derived from it would be too little. They are saying the money used for it could have been better used.

One expert also clarified that she had not previously stated a concern in how the budget for the project had been taken from the government’s welfare budget, but rather had intended to highlight the fact that there have been no prior consultations held with groups directdly affected by the project.

On the downsizing at the Ministry of Gender Equality

An expert noted that the Ministry of Gender Equality has been downsized, and that this has had a weakening effect on plans to improve gender equality.

On labor issues

In addressing working hours, an expert noted that the Republic of Korea had the highest number of working hours in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the highest record of industrial accidents in the OECD area and also had a high rate of deaths in the workplace. There are currently only 350 labor inspectorates in the country. The expert said labor inspectors are apparently more focused on investigating undocumented migrant workers rather that inspecting corporations for safety and occupational hazards.

On demonstrations

Turning to the matter of strikes and demonstrations, one expert noted that holding demonstrations in downtown Seoul have become no longer possible due to an article of the penal code regarding obstruction of business. The expert questioned why trade unions’ rallies and demonstrations were being banned and the exact meaning of “obstruction of business.”

One expert made reference to a disproportionate number of military and police personnel deployed in Seoul around a peaceful demonstration she had witnessed.

On migrant workers

Turning to the situation of migrant workers in the Republic of Korea, one expert noted that there were several problems linked to restriction of labor mobility, safety and health, and services offered to foreign workers.

An expert said Amnesty International had reported about the problem of exploitation and trafficking of workers in the Republic of Korea’s entertainment industry. The country has signed, but not yet ratified the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.

In addition, the Republic of Korea seems to have a very narrow definition of trafficking, which only includes trafficking for prostitution. However, there have been incidences of sex trafficking within the entertainment industry. Women from the Philippines are often recruited to work in bars and nightclubs and at the end of the day are very often forced to offer their sex services to the clients by their employers. If they fail to do so, the employer threatens to cancel their work permit and sends them back to their country. These workers do not fall within the definition of trafficking, under the current legislation.

On the Yongsan Tragedy

On forced evictions, an expert cited an event that had taken place in the Republic of Korea where 40 persons had been evicted by force. In response, 1,400 riot police officers plus members of private security forces were sent in and violence was used. This had resulted in the death of five protesters and one police officer. This clearly showed that excessive force is being used in forced evictions. Furthermore, no alternative settlement programs have been offered in this case and the bodies of the victims have not yet been buried as their families are still asking for an official apology and compensation.

The expert said the Republic of Korea must establish a law on forced evictions, and said this could be simply done by adopting the guidelines included in the Committee’s General Comment on forced evictions.

On the issue of the Korean National University of Arts

An Expert noted that the Korean National University of Arts had been asked by the government to concentrate only on practical teaching and its theoretical courses had been cut. The Expert questioned why the state felt that it had the right to dictate to academic institutions at the tertiary level what they should teach and to whom they should teach. The Expert added that this infringed on academic freedom.

On Press Freedom

Another expert mentioned and questioned the arrests of journalists who have written critical reports about Lee administration policies. The expert asked whether this did not amount to censorship of some kind.

Marchan Romero, Chairperson of the Committee, said that he hopes that the South Korean delegation will add leverage to how the South Korean government gives consideration to the Committee’s recommendations.

In response, Paik Ji-ah, director-general for International Organizations Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said that the intense discussions have been highly constructive. She believes that the Committee’s advice and recommendations will serve as a valuable guide and source of inspiration for the government in years to come.

This was the third examination conducted in the eight years since South Korea ratified the ICESCR. The Committee will compile final results from its study and will be submitting its recommendations to the South Korean government.

Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani@hani.co.kr]


Korea approved 11 new coastal reclamation projects

The government of South Korea approved 11 new coastal wetlands reclamation projects on November 9th. 1,058,000㎡ of coastal wetlands will be reclaimed to provide lands to renewable energy project, shipbuilding industry, port redevelopment, road construction, etc.

As you can see from the table above, some of the public waters and coastal wetlands will be reclaimed to provide lands for private investors and developers such as shipbuilding and energy companies. Because they can possess the land formed by reclaiming public waters and tidal flats, many South Korean companies want to reclaim coastal areas for their own economic benefits.

The natural environment of the Garorim Bay will be affected severely due to the new reclamation project linked to the Garorim Bay Tidal Power Project, especially on tidal flats of 8,000 ha in the bay.

The problem is that such a destructive energy project is promoted by the South Korean government in the name of it's Green Growth National Vision. (http://koreawetlands.blogspot.com/2009/11/impacts-of-tidal-power-projects-of-s.html)

▲Hugh Tidal Flat of the Garorim Bay  ⓒ Lee Pyeong-ju / KFEM Seosan-Taean

South Korea was the host country of the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Wetlands, last year. The Resolution X.22 'Promoting international cooperation for the conservation of waterbird flyways' was adopted at the Ramsar COP10 which states that the Conference of the Contracting Parties "WELCOMES the statement by the Republic of Korea to the 35th meeting of Ramsar’s Standing Committee that intertidal mudflats should be preserved and that no large-scale reclamation projects are now being approved in the Republic of Korea, and ENCOURAGES all Contracting Parties in their efforts to protect such habitats in future and to monitor them and mitigate any past development impacts on or losses to them".

The government of South Korea approved 11 coastal wetland reclamation projects of 8.1㎢ in March this year and approved 11 new reclamation projects of 1.06㎢ again, the day before yesterday. It is hard to believe that South Korean government is following its own statement and the resolutions of the Ramsar Convention.

Such destructive reclamation projects show the reallity of things happening in South Korea in the name of Green Growth and Green New Deal policy.


Haepyeong Wetland under threat from the 4 Rivers Project

The Haepyeong Wetland is a riparian wetland along the Nakdong River.  It is an important staging sites for 20-70% of the global population of Hooded Crane Grus monacha and 10% of White-naped Crane Grus vipio.

The Nakdong River will be affected the most from the 4 Rivers Restoration Projects of South Korean Government.  The river will damaged from heavy dredging of 440 million cubic meters of sediments from the 330 kilometer long section of the river from its mouth by 2011.  There are plans to build more than 8 dams of 10 to 13 meters high on its mainstream and a couple more on its tributaries.  As a result of the project, depth of the mainstream of the Nakdong River will be maintained more than 6 meters deep.
Though, government of South Korea maintains that they will not dredge sediments in the Haepyeong Wetland and to protect it, how can the wetland and its sand bars survice such a massive dredging right upstream and downstream.  It is just a nonsense to protect the wetland when the 4 Rivers Restoration Project starts. 
We are about to lose the natural beauty and ecological character of the Haepyeong Wetland. 
And, we might not be able to see the beautiful birds and the wetland any more. 

▲ Aerial View of the Haepyeong Wetland and the Nakdong River  ⓒ Han Bae-deok

▲ Hooded Cranes at the Haepyeong Wetland  ⓒ Han Bae-deok

▲ Hooded Cranes at the Haepyeong Wetland ⓒ Han Bae-deok

▲ Hooded Cranes and White-fronted Geese at the Haepyeong Wetland ⓒ Han Bae-deok

▲ Hooded Cranes at the Haepyeong Wetland ⓒ Han Bae-deok

▲ White-fronted Geese at the Haepyeong Wetland ⓒ Han Bae-deok

EIA passed and the 4 Rivers Project will soon start

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the controversial "Four Major Rivers Restoration Project" was just approved by the Ministry of Environment of South Korea, last Friday, 6th November and the construction work is about to start today, 10th November 2009.

The 'Four Major Rivers Restoration Project' is one of the largest infrastructure projects in South Korea which will spend 22.2 trillion Korean Won (USD 17.8 billion) by 2012 to "restore" four largest rivers of the country. The project was proposed to cope with climate change, to resrote riverine environment and to boost local economy in the name of Green Growth and Green New Deal. The purposes of the project is to store water to be prepared for drought and water shortage; to prevent flooding; to improve water quality and restore ecosystems; and to promote local tourism.

As all the necessary processes were cleared, the government of South Korea will start to build more than 16 new dams on the mainstreams of the four largest rivers and 5 new dams on their tributaries, to raise 87 existing irrigation dams, to reinforce 377 kilometers of riverbanks and to dredge 570 million cubic meters of sediment from 691 kilometer long sections of the rivers to keep the rivers to be 4 to 6 meter deep.

The EIA reports of thousands of pages long for such a great project had been prepared in only about 40 days from late June to late July or early August. They didn't make a through field survey, but went out to the rivers for only a few days and just utilized old reports some of which are about 20 years old to write the EIA report. Thus the reports failed to show biological information of many important species living along the 4 rivers.

South Korea is the country which hosted the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar COP10) just about one years ago. Mr. Lee Myung-bak, President of South Korea stated that "South Korea will keep increasing the number of Wetland Protection Areas and Ramsar Sites and it will be a model country of the convention" at his speech at the opening ceremony of the Ramsar COP10. But neither he nor his government which adopted so-called "Green Growth National Vision" as the country's development strategy keep the promises made at Ramsar COP 10.

There have been no wetlands in South Korea added to the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance during the year since the Ramsar COP10. Instead, the government approved several new coastal wetland reclamations early this year and is driving the 4 Rivers Project.

At Ramsar COP10, the Contracting Parties adopted the Resolution X.19 'Wetlands and river basin management: consolidated scientific and technical guidance' asking Contracting Parties to integrate wetland conservation and wise use into river basin management, and Resolution X.24 on 'Climate change and wetlands' asking Contracting Parties to make every effort to consider the maintenance of the ecological character of wetlands in national climate change mitigation and adaptation policies.

However, the government of South Korea wants to drive the 4 Rivers Project in its efforts to develop measures to the climate change impacts, which threatens conservation of riverine wetlands by greatly affecting the maintenance of the ecological characters of the rivers flowing relatively freely. It is expected that more than 100 riverine wetlands on the National Wetland Inventory compiled by the government of South Korea including a couple of Wetland Protection Areas will be affected by the 4 Rivers Project when the project starts.

Don't we all know that wetlands play a crucial role in flood control, water supply and water purification; construction of levees and dams on rivers to improve flood control have often had the reverse effect; and floodplain restoration and removal of structures can be a solution?

Why Korean government wants to insists on building more than 20 new dams, reinforcing riverbanks and dredging sediments from the rivers in the name of Green Growth?

It is very hard to understand why our government wants to spend tremendous amount of money to restore rivers and riverine wetlands and building many dams at the same time. And, it is almost impossible for us, South Korean environmental NGOs to persuade our government to keep rivers to flow naturally and to protect ecological characters of the rivers.

Please share your experiences of wise use and good management of rivers with us. And, please tell South Korean government what is the real restoration of rivers and wetland at  http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/save-4-rivers-in-Korea


Impacts of Tidal Power Projects of S. Korea

Tidal Power Projects of South Korea and Their Impacts on Tidal Flat Conservation

6th November, 2009
Korea Federation for Environmental Movements

The government of South Korea is pursuing its Green Growth National Vision and under this vision plans to introduce a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) in 2012 to "increase the share of new and renewable energy in total energy use". Local electricity companies have to find ways to increase 'new and renewable' energy generation share to 10% of their electricity generated to meet the requirements of the new RPS by 2020. They have not taken the environmental and social implications into consideration in their plan to increase new and renewable energy generation but just want to pursue the easiest course to meet the new standard, with the large-scale tidal power projects.                                                                            (Map 1. Tidal Power Projects of S. Korea)

The Ganghwa Tidal Power Project is a 2.1 trillion Korean Won (about USD 1.8 billion) project of Incheon City, Korea Midland Power Co. Ltd., and Daewoo Engineering and Construction to build a plant with a power generation capacity of 813MW. The planned project will connect four islands in the West of Ganghwado (Ganghwa Island) with an artificial concrete sea-wall 6.5 kilometres long. The project is expected to have a significantly negative impact on the Tidal Flats of Ganghwa Island and the Breeding Ground of an endangered migratory water bird, the Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor which are listed as protected Natural Monument No. 419. Some part of the protected Natural Monument area will lie within the artificial seawater lake created by the sea-walls.

(Map 2. Ganghwa and Incheon Bay Tidal Power Projects which overlaps the protected tidal flats of the Natural Monument and Wetland Protection Area)

The Incheon Bay Tidal Power Project is a 3.4 trillion Korean Won (about USD 2.9 billion) project of Korea Ocean Research & Development Institute, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. Ltd., and GS Engineering and Construction with a power generation capacity of 1,440MW. It is going to connect two islands, Ganghwado (Ganghwa Island) and Yeongjongdo (Yeongjong Island) with an artificial concrete sea-wall 15 kilometres long. The project is expected to have a significantly negative impact on the Wetland Protection Area of Jangbongdo (Jangbong Island) Tidal Flat. Some part of the Wetland Protection Area and the Natural Monument will lie within the artificial seawater lake created by the sea-walls.

The natural flow of tides will be dramatically changed if these tidal power projects are implemented. The protected tidal flats around the Ganghwa and Yeongjong Islands, which are very important breeding, nourishing and feeding grounds for numerous marine animals and migratory waterbird species, will lose their important ecological character. The planned projects will also have impacts on the livelihood of many local fishermen as a lot of the productive tidal flats and the sea will be severely degraded or lost. The voices of these fishermen were not considered in the planning of the projects. In addition, the results of the Feasibility Studies for the two projects were not open to the general public for comment.

(Map 3. Garorim Bay Tidal Power Project)

The Garorim Bay Tidal Power Project is a 1 trillion Korean Won (about USD 0.85 billion) project of Korea Western Power Co. Ltd., POSCO Engineering & Construction Co. Ltd., Daewoo Engineering and Construction, and Lotte Engineering & Construction Co. Ltd. to build a power generation plant with a capacity of 520MW. It is proposing to build a 2km long concrete sea-wall at the mouth of the bay. The project is expected to have a severely negative impact on the environment of the bay.

According to a research by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of South Korea in 2005, the tidal flats of Garorim Bay are the most well conserved tidal flats in the country. And according to research commissioned by the same ministry in 2007, the bay's environmental values were rated as the highest among all the coastal areas of the country. The bay is one of only two habitats of the Spotted Seal Phoca largha in South Korea. This species, which is protected under Endangered Species Category Ⅱ designated by the Ministry of Environment of South Korea, is also under threat by the proposed Garorim Bay Tidal Power Project. Free movement and migration of the seals will be impossible if the sea-wall is built. The tidal flats in the bay which support important numbers of migratory waterbird species including migratory shorebirds will face changes to the ecological character of their habitat.

The largest tidal power facility operating in the world is in France and it has a generation capacity of 240MW. The tidal power projects being planned in Korea are two to six times larger in their capacity and consequently, their environmental impacts will be greater. Though a great deal of damage to marine and coastal environments are expected from the tidal power projects in South Korea, they are just being pushed as one of green energy projects under the Green Growth National Vision of this country. Such projects should be stopped and important coastal wetlands and marine environment of the country should be protected. The proponents of the Green Growth Plan of South Korea should pay more attention to the conservation of natural environments and biodiversity. Any project that results in severe degradation of the natural environment can hardly be called green growth.