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

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