Tidal Power Projects of South Korea and Their Impacts on Tidal Flat Conservation
6th November, 2009
Korea Federation for Environmental Movements
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.