Forum at CBD COP10; River Restoration and Biodiversity Conservation

River Restoration and Biodiversity Conservation

- Time : 10:00-12:00 a.m., Thursday, October 21, 2010

- Venue : Small Hall 2, Nagoya Gakuin University Gymnasium, Nagoya, Japan

(site of Interactive Fair for Biodiversity)

- Organized by Korea Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM) / Friends of the Earth Korea

󰋯Presentation 1. Four Major Rivers Restoration Project and Its Impacts on Biodiversity Conservation

- Ma Yong-un, Korea Federation for Environmental Movements

󰋯Presentation 2. Wetlands along the Nakdong River in Korea as Important Stopersites for Migratory Cranes

- Simba Chan, Birdlife International Asia

󰋯Presentation 3. Connecting Waterway Project on Kiso River Watershed in Japan

- Masano Atsuko, Writer

󰋯Questions and Answers

※for more information please contact Mr. Ma Yong-un at ma@kfem.or.kr

Korea Federation for Environmental Movements


Disappointment at CBD Award to President Lee Myung-bak for his contribution to biodiversity conservation

31st August 2010

Dear Dr Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the CBD,

Re: Disappointment at CBD Award to President Lee Myung-bak for his contribution to biodiversity conservation

The World Wetland Network (WWN), established at the Tenth Conference of Contracting Parties (COP10) to the Ramsar Convention in Changwon, is a rapidly growing independent network of over 300 wetland Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), wetland experts and community groups from across the world.

The WWN is extremely disappointed to learn that the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has presented President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea (ROK) with an award for his contributions to biodiversity. Although we are aware of the ROK’'s ‘'green growth agenda’', interest in green technology, and high profile support of international environmental conventions, we remain convinced that present policies in the ROK are in fact leading to an increase in the rate of biodiversity loss. This understanding is based on detailed information provided both by local WWN partners in-country, and by other wellrespected domestic and international visiting experts.

This award clearly sends the wrong message and undermines the new Strategic Plan that the Parties will ratify at the forthcoming CBD COP10 in Nagoya, Aichi, Japan. We believe that the outcome of presenting this award will prove negative for biodiversity in a number of ways.

Firstly, the international wetland and biodiversity conservation community is well aware of several highly destructive mega-projects being undertaken in the ROK at this time, and this award will therefore result in a loss of credibility of the CBD.

Secondly, this award undermines the good work being carried out by local stakeholders, NGOs and academics in the ROK who have been trying to prevent the negative impacts of projects such as the current Four Rivers construction project, the ongoing Saemangeum and Song-do tidal-flat reclamations and the proposed tidal power-plants.

Attempts to discuss and advise on these projects in a meaningful way with decisionmakers is already extremely challenging due to the lack of formal mechanisms to enable open and regular discussions. These efforts will be made much more difficult by this award as it will undoubtedly be used to attempt to further sway public opinion by showing that the Four Rivers construction project and other environmental policies are being lauded by the CBD.

Finally, presentation of this award both rewards and endorses the ROK and all other nations who continue to opt for the unsustainable use of hard engineering projects at the expense of natural eco-systems, contra the expert guidance provided by e.g. CBD and the Ramsar Convention.

To further explain our collective deep concern, we provide more details below of three projects that are leading to massive habitat change and species loss, but which nonetheless are being presented as sustainable (‘'green growth’') development by decisionmakers in the ROK.

1. The Four Rivers project in the ROK has been presented as a ‘'restoration’' project, but it instead consists of much additional hard engineering, including dredging, culverting and further damming of rivers, leading to considerable loss of biodiversity in the rivers and adjacent wetlands. The ROK’'s own Fourth National Report to CBD highlights concerns about threats to biodiversity from hard-engineering projects of the very same kind: “. . . the endemic ecosystems of the rivers are now being greatly disturbed due to various physical, chemical and biological factors. Physical factors include dam construction, the artificial straightening of streams, dredging, aggregate collection, banking, the construction of submerged weirs and dammed pools”" (ROK Fourth National Report to CBD 2009).

With this Four Rivers project costing the equivalent of at least $US 19 Billion, affecting several hundreds of kilometres of river (including Important Bird Areas and a Ramsar site) and many local communities, a high-level of prolonged and open public and stakeholder consultation should have been carried out, and a rigorous and comprehensive environmental impact assessment should have been conducted, before any construction work was started. This would have been in line with the guidance and the spirit of international conventions such as CBD and Ramsar. However, there was very little consultation, the EIA was completely inadequate and conducted in only four months. Even now, data from ongoing monitoring work is not publicly available, and there is no effective process through which concerns for biodiversity can be addressed by those outside of the development bodies.

2. A 33-km long seawall was completed at Saemangeum in 2006, leading to the ongoing loss of 30,000 ha of intertidal wetland and 10,000 ha of sea shallows. The Saemangeum Shorebird Monitoring Program (SSMP) conducted by the Australasian Wader Studies Group and Birds Korea demonstrated the transhemispheric impacts on migratory shorebirds of this reclamation project, leading e.g. to a 20% or more decline in the global population of Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris, resulting in its listing by BirdLife International (on behalf of the IUCN) as globally vulnerable. While much of the Saemangeum estuarine ecosystem could still be restored, the development ministries continue to promote the conversion of this globally important wetland into dry land as “"green”".

3. Already, probably 70% or more of all historic inter-tidal wetland in the ROK has been reclaimed. Even after the formal commitment undertaken by the ROK government in 2008 that “"intertidal mudflats should be preserved and that no large-scale reclamation projects are now being approved in the Republic of Korea”" (Ramsar Resolution X.22) more tidal reclamation projects and tidal power plants (which will lead to a degradation of remaining intertidal wetlands) have either been approved or are in the pipeline. Further large-scale reclamation at Song-do (Incheon) for example was approved in March 2009 which will result in the further loss of habitat used by at least 11 species of waterbird in Ramsar defined internationally important concentrations, including breeding globally endangered Black-faced Spoonbills Platalea minor.

All of the above information is in the public domain, and has been published either in NGO reports, in scientific journals or in the conservation literature. We are extremely disappointed that CBD failed either to consider this information or apparently to consult with independent observers and organizations before presenting such an award, not only in the International Year of Biodiversity, but in the run-up both to the CBD COP10 and the G20 meeting which will be held in the ROK in November.

We therefore urge the CBD to reconsider this award, in order to maintain the convention’'s good name. We also urge the convention to improve ways in which they can support the ROK in moves to cancel or at least scale-back the most destructive projects. Both are necessary in order to deliver genuinely positive outcomes for biodiversity in line with the Articles of the Convention on Biological Diversity.


Mr Chris Rostron

Signed on behalf of:
The World Wetland Network Committee
Birds Korea
Citizen Movement Against the Grand Canal
Citizen Movement for the Protection of Nakdong River (Busan Office, Gyungnam Office,
Daegu Gyungbuk Office)
Eco-Horizon Institute
Green Korea United
Korean Federation for Environmental Movement
Korean Teacher's Organization for Ecological Education and Activity (TEEA)
Korea Wetlands NGO Network (KWNN)
OSEAN (Our Sea of East Asia Network)
PGA Wetland Ecology Institute
Ramsar Network Japan
Wetlands and Birds Korea

Cc: UNEP (Mr Achim Steiner); CMS (Ms Elisabeth Maruma Mrema); Ramsar Secretariat (Mr Anada Tiéga); IUCN; BirdLife International; Wetlands International; WWF.


The Excavator Age

Have a look at a short video, "The Excavator Age" produced by a dedicated environmental photographer, Seopung. You will be able to see what are happening to rivers in South Korea in the name of '4 Major Rivers Restoration Project'.

3 Activists Who Occupied the Ipo Dam Released

‎3 activists, Mr. Jang Dong-bin, Mr. Park Pyung-soo and Mr. Yum Hyung-cheol (from the left) who had been detained at a police station for two days after they stopped the sit-in on the top of the Ipo Dam for 41 days were released in the night of September 2, 2010.

Though a local prosecutor asked for arrest warrant against them, the judge at a local court dismissed it and they could come back home for the first time in 43 days from July 22.

They will have to argue for their rightous action at court as they are still accused for trespassing the dam building site and interfering the construction work, though.


Appeal for Support of KFEM's Protest Against the Four Rivers Project

Appeal for Support of KFEM(FoE-Korea)'s Protest Against the Four Rivers Project

Dear friends from all over the world,

I would like you to give special attention to the following protest actions in Korea and give your full support to our movement.

On a pitch-dark night at 3am on July 22, 2010, five KFEM activists in two teams sneaked into two new dam building sites; three climbed up 20 meter high top of a pillar of a lock gate of the Ipo Dam on the South Han River, and two took over the 40 meter high tower crane operation room at the Haman Dam on the Nakdong River with banners saying ’Listen to the People’s Voice to Stop the Four Rivers Project’. The activists were Park Pyung-soo (KFEM Goyang), Yum Hyung-cheol (KFEM Seoul), Jang Dong-bin (KFEM Suwon), Lee Hwan-mun (KFEM Jinju) and Choi Soo-young (KFEM Busan), all from the local KFEM offices based along the Han and Nakdong Rivers. KFEM, through their actions and voices, demanded that construction should be suspended at least during the rainy season, and the government should accept our proposal to set up a joint reviewing committee which includes government representatives, NGOs, religious leaders, professionals, and politicians to examine the relevance of the river ‘restoration’ project, and demanded the National Assembly to set up an inspection committee for the Project.

Due to a strong typhoon that was approaching, two activists at the Haman Dam on the Nakdong River were persuaded to descend from the tower crane on August 10. Though they had been arrested by the police as soon as they came down from the tower crane, the local court dismissed a warrant of arrest two days later.

As of August 23, the other three activists sitting in on the Ipo Dam have been struggling for 33 days under the torrid sun and torrents of seasonal storms with short food, water and communication means. They brought rice and water with them to sustain them for 15 days, and they were able to communicate with mobile phones in the beginning. As their stay on the top of the dam prolonged, their food, water and battery ran out and they are surviving with little amount of food and water which the developers of the dam agreed to provide. Their health became risky even though their morale is still very high. The Korean government has not moved at all to our appeal with no intention for dialogue. We feel extremely helpless.

KFEM has set up support camps near the dam construction sites, and has taken various actions in order to support the struggle. The support camps have become one of the most important bridgehead where the anti-project activists, citizens, students, and professionals gathered to express their support for the cause.

The Four Major Rivers Project was originally planned as a construction of canals that would connect the four largest rivers across the mountains in the middle of Korea. In order to construct the canal, the government planned to have many lock gates and dig out the river bed as deep as 6 meters and as wide as 200 meters so that big ships can pass. The Lee administration had declared that it gave up the canal project when it had been faced with strong people’s opposition in June 2008, and instead it announced the four major rivers restoration project in December 2008, which was not essentially very different from the original canal plan.

We oppose the Four Rivers Project, because the project is massively destroying Korea’s most important ecology resulting in unprecedented ecological calamity. The project destroys the habitat of endangered species, and destroys important wetlands where migratory birds along the East Asian-Australian Flyway on their way to breeding or wintering grounds. The project will definitely contaminate drinking water sources for the majority of the Korean people.

This project is simply a massive waste of national investment resources. A total of 22.2 trillion Won((USD 19 billion) was budgeted for the project, with which the government plans to build more than 20 new dams, and dig out 520 million cubic meters of sediments from 691 km long sections of the river bottoms. This project will only benefit construction companies and land speculators.

Many farmers living along the river area will be put under the threat of relocation. One of the oldest and largest organic farm clusters near Seoul were ordered to stop farming and remove from the area.

Because the project results in such a lot of environmental and social problems, the Korean government is faced with strong opposition from various sectors of society. A Buddhist monk burned himself to death in a protest against the project. The Korean National Council of Catholic Bishops issued a declaration to oppose against the project. Protestant priests staged hunger strikes. Reverend Sugyeong, a Buddhist monk, who has been fighting against the Saemangeum Tidal-flat Reclamation Project, set up a zen center on the river side of the Han River. Professors all over the country got together to form a protest front against the Four Rivers Project. We formed national fronts to fight against the project which comprised of environmental NGOs, religious groups, political parties and civil society organizations and staged massive rallies, sit-ins, press conferences, and one-person demonstrations.

Citizens, ecologists, religious leaders, politicians, artists, youths and students make endless pilgrimage to the construction sites and resolve opposition to this destructive project. According to a national survey reported on June 10, 2010, 79.4% of respondents are against the project. Local elections on June 2, 2010 resulted in a massive defeat of the ruling Grand National Party, which promotes the Four Rivers Project. The Korean government is literally surrounded with opposition from all sectors of Korean society.

The project had numerous procedural defects. It is the government that violated laws. The Environmental Impact Assessment reports of all four rivers and surrounding areas were made only within four months. Usually EIA takes at least one year in Korea where environmental impacts should be monitored at four distinctly different seasons.

The government violated the River Conservation Law. They also violated the Cultural Asset Law because they did not survey cultural assets properly. Environmental organizations brought the cases to the court.

We appeal to citizens, environmentalists, civil society activists, and intellectuals all over the world to extend full support to our struggle to stop the Lee Myung-bak administration for its unprecedented destruction of our environments. As an integral part of Friends of Earth, we particularly appeal to our member organizations to send letters of protests to the Korean government demanding suspension of the project, and to initiate dialogues with concerned parties. We would like to ask you to take the following actions:

(1) Write letters directly to President Lee Myung-bak, because it is he who can solely make a decision on this matter. Letters should be addressed to:

President Lee Myung-bak,
1 Chongwadaero, Chongro-ku, Seoul, 110-820 Korea
Telephone: 82-2730-5800
http://www.epeople.go.kr/ for petition

(2) Disseminate information of this massive ecological destruction all over the world, appeal for support. The Lee Myung-bak administration even makes bad use of this project as ‘green growth’ which provides countermeasures to climate change in the international society. The Four Rivers Project is simply a fake of ‘green growth’, blocking natural flow of the rivers with deforming concrete dams. Please let us be informed of your support so that we can be encouraged to fight.

(3) Send messages of support and encouragement to the three ecological warriors and KFEM.

We are convinced that you will extend warm and strong support to our struggle in safeguarding our nature and society. Thank you for your attention.

In solidarity,

Professor Seejae Lee

* Contact for further information:

Mr. Ma Yong-un, Director, Nature Conservation Team, ma@kfem.or.kr
Ms. Yangyi Wonyong, Director, KFEM Public Relations Service, yangwy@kfem.or.kr
Korea Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM)/Friends of the Earth Korea
251 Nuha-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, 110-806, South Korea



Call for Nominations; SBS Eco Water Awards 2010

SBS Eco Water Awards 2010
International Section (Gaia Prize)

The Korea Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM)/Friends of Earth South Korea, Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) and Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Korea present the third ‘SBS Eco Water Awards’ in November 2010 to those who have worked to protect water environments in Korea and the world.

The ‘SBS Eco Water Awards’ are given in recognition of contributions of individuals, communities and institutions to protect water environments and improve water resources management and water quality in a sustainable way. The awards hope to honor those who work to find sustainable solutions to diverse challenges that arise in water resources management and water related ecosystem conservation.

Though water is essential for the survival of many forms of life, water shortage and contamination due to rapid population, economic growth, industrialization and urbanization are posing big threats to human and other life forms on the Earth. We think it is our own responsibility to restore the availability of clean and safe water and healthy environment for the future generations.

There are five sections in the awards which are citizens' actions, society and culture, research and education, policy and environmental business administration, and international accomplishments. The Gaia Prize for the international accomplishments section winner will be given to an individual or institution working outside of South Korea.

Award winners will be chosen by the award committee, and a TV crew from the SBS accompanied by some young adult award recipients will visit the winner of the Gaia Prize in October to produce a short TV documentary about the achievements of the winner.

The awards ceremony will be held in Seoul in November 2010. The winner of the Gaia Prize will be given a monetary prize of 20,000 US dollars as well as a certificate.

A confederation of 50 local chapters and 5 affiliated organizations, KFEM is one of the first and largest environmental NGOs in South Korea. KFEM has actively taken part in the fields of water resources management, river and wetland protection in the country.

SBS was established in 1990 and is one of the largest broadcasting companies in South Korea. It is comprised of one national TV channel and three radio channels. For the past ten years, SBS has produced public interest TV programs such as 'Water is Life' which worked to elevate the public awareness of water related environmental issues.

The ‘SBS Eco Water Award’ was established in 2008 and the 2008 winner of the Gaia Prize was the Revive Ariake Sea! Lawyers' Association in Japan whose efforts focused on the protection and restoration of the tidal flats of Isahaya Bay, a coastal wetland in Kyushu, Japan from a reclamation project.

The Onon-Ulz River Movement of Mongolia won the 2009 Gaia Prize. They nullified the mining licenses of two mining companies near the Onon-Ulz River and conducted a purifying project on the surrounding polluted land.

- Nomination Deadline: August 31st, 2010

- Application: send the nomination form to Mr. Peter Kwon at KFEM at yspk298@gmail.com

- Inquiries: Mr. Peter Kwon at KFEM at yspk298@gmail.com

* Please download the nomination form here

* More information on the SBS Eco Water Awards 2010

A Story of the Oriseom Islet

Here is a short video, "A Story of the Oriseom (Ori Islet)" produced by Reverend Jiyul. The Oriseom is a small islet in the middle of the Nakdong River in South Korea. It used to be a great wetland and habitats for many wildlife species, but it is being devastated by the Four Rivers Project.

The River Is Us

Here is a good article on the Four Rivers Project published on the August Issue of the Gwangju News written by Ms. Alva French.


The specter of the Grand Korean Waterway

Here is a very good column which shows what are problems of the Four Rivers Project in South Korea. The project is building more than 18 new dams and dredging more than 520 million cubic meters of sand and gravel from the bottom of the four largest rivers in the country.

[Column] The specter of the Grand Korean Waterway

The Hankyoreh
Posted on : Aug. 20, 2010 14:24 KST

By Cho Hong-seop, Environmental Reporter

The previous allegations that the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project is in fact the preliminary stage for President Lee Myung-bak’s Grand Korean Waterway have been resurrected. Despite two assurances from President Lee that he is not executing the waterway project, suspicions have only deepened.

In particular, the decision to pull an episode of MBC’s “PD Notebook” entitled “The Six-Meter-Deep Secret of the Four Major Rivers” has a number of people asking what type of content could have sparked the move to shelve the program, adding to suspicions that the Grand Korean Waterway is under way.

The more than 2,000 viewer opinions that went up overnight Wednesday on the bulletin board of the “PD Notebook” web site were a clear indication of the anger and despondency citizens felt.

One viewer vented, “Look, the viewers aren’t so brainless that you have to tell them not to watch this.”

Others wrote things like “This is a scary country” and “It seems like we are returning to the 1980s. I have tears in my eyes.”

The Lee Myung-bak administration has been working overtime to clear away concerns, stating that “there was no secret team” and that “the zones with depths of six meters or more represent 26.5 percent of the entire project.”
However, their statements do not seem to be quelling the controversy, as they has yet to provide a single convincing answer to the fundamental question of why the rivers have to be dug so deeply and blocked off with weirs.

Large weirs and extensive dredging were not part of the project initially presented. The minister of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs (MLTM) gave a report to President Lee during a Presidential Committee on Balanced National Development meeting on Dec. 15, 2008. The report contained a plan to install natural stone weirs at depths of one to two meters so that citizens could use the water for recreational purposes. Dredging was restricted to zones with severe sedimentation. The project centered on building small to mid-sized dams and reservoirs, and weirs and dredging were to be used merely as supplementary means.

However, in the master plan for the project that showed its face for the first time in April of the next year, the four natural stone weirs had transformed into 16 dam-sized weirs, and the dredging amounts ballooned by three times the initial plan. The Lee administration has stated that there were slight changes in the process of fleshing out the project, but the reality is that the substance of the project underwent a fundamental transformation. It stands to reason that people would begin to harbor suspicions about this metamorphosis that took place behind closed doors.

Why is the river being dredged so deeply? According to experts, nowhere in the world will you find flood prevention measures that involve digging up the riverbed. The Lee administration says that it is intended as a way of preparing for future climate change, that it has developed “water basins” for the eventuality of unanticipated flooding and drought. This explanation is an insult to the fellow public officials who toiled for the past decade to generate advanced flood control policies. The climate change issue was already been reflected in the government’s own water resource policies some ten years ago.

South Korea’s flood control policy hit a turning point in the late 1990s. Northern Gyeonggi Province suffered its worst-ever flooding in three different years, in 1996, 1998, and 1999. Once-in-500-years rainfall struck in three out of four years, resulting in the collapse of Yeoncheon Dam.

The government established the flood disaster prevention task force in the Cheong Wa Dae (the presidential office in South Korea or Blue House) in 1999 and embarked on a thorough reexamination of its flood control plans. At the heart of this was a shift from levees to basins, from lines to planes. Since it was impossible to prevent flooding simply with levees on the main course of a river, the idea was to build flood control dams and riverside reservoirs in the upper region to spread the flood control burden throughout the basin. A strategy of selective flood defense was adopted, one that involved not fighting the flood, but accepting strategic losses according to the location.

Based on this understanding, a variety of mid to long-term flood control plans have been formulated in the intervening years. The Four Major Rivers Project is now taking the new flood control system built over the past decade and reverting it overnight to the way it was before the 1990s.

The same goes for drought prevention measures. What do they expect to do with the water trapped in the main courses of the four rivers when dealing with a drought that strikes remote farming villages, coastal areas, or islands?

Speaking at a discussion last year held by the National Assembly Research Service, one of the drafters of the master plan hit the nail on the head, saying, “After we did the dredging, we found that some one billion cubic meters of water was secured” - not that the dredging had been done to match the water shortfall.

So why do they insist on building large weirs and dredging so extensively when this can address neither flooding nor drought issues? Therein lurks the specter of the Grand Korean Waterway.


Message of Support by Mr. Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International

August 6, 2010

I send you greetings of peace and solidarity from Nigeria. The courageous campaigns/protests of the KFEM activists is already on the website of Friends of the Earth International. The news of this struggle is being spread widely and we will continue to do so.

Since I visited Korea in March this year I was fully convinced that the 4 Rivers project is not what is needed. It is clear that the reasons given for embarking on the project are merely used to promote the scheme and will not give the result being claimed. There is no way a dam can revitalise a river! With regard to securing water for the expected shortage in future, we can say that climate change is merley being used as a cover up for a project that is not needed, now or in the future.

I fully support your actions and send this message to all the activists to keep on fighting for the truth and for justice. The natural environment is the best security for a safe, healthy and liveable future.

Your struggle for Korea is a struggle for all of humanity. We stand with you in this.

Your brother

Nnimmo Bassey
Chair, Friends of the Earth International


Dams and Dredging: Korea's River “Restoration” Project


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Dams and Dredging: Korea's River “Restoration” Project

Seoul is a city of 10 million people now, but hundreds of years ago, it was a newly founded village along the banks of a pretty creek called Chonggyecheon. As the city grew, the creek became a sewer and finally was covered over by concrete and a freeway. Until recently, that is, because Mayor Lee Myung-bak brought the creek back to the daylight and pushed construction of a semi-natural running water experience for the urban dwellers in Seoul. We were impressed with the creek walk as an urban park, though water from the Han River is pumped at considerable energy costs to enhance the flow.

Now Lee is the nation's president and he seems determined to re-design the nation's four largest rivers, an objective that seems much less wise. The Han is one of South Korea's four major rivers, along with the Nakdong, Geum, and Yeongsan . From a watershed that gathers runoff from mountains to the east, the great Han River passes through the capital city of Seoul (37°35'N), then turns northwest to enter the ocean at the northern boundary of the country at the Demilitarized Zone (37°46'N). Late last year, excavators began carving away riverside bluffs to as much as double the width of the channel, while also digging out miles of riverbed to deepen it by 12 to18 feet. On the two days we explored a 6-mile stretch along the south fork of the Han River near Yeoju, construction crews were at work on 3 dams (weirs) while trucks were constantly being loaded with riverbed sand and gravel to be added to mountains of material already piled nearby. We had never seen so many gigantic excavators at work at once.

Yet this is just one part of a much grander $20 billion project. A total of 16 new dams are planned on the main channels of the four rivers, plus 5 more on their tributaries, while enlarging 87 existing small dams and armoring over 200 miles of riverbanks. The big dams under construction were close enough together so that the series of excavated “water basins” and gates could conceivably become a continuous canal. Opponents of the project think that is exactly the point, as a navigable canal connecting the nation's rivers was a key objective for President Lee when he took office, until national opposition stopped that grandiose plan. The current effort is part of Lee's “Green New Deal,” with stated objectives to store water against the prospects of drought, prevent flooding, improve water quality, restore river ecosystems, promote river-related recreation, and stimulate the economy (read more about the government program here)

The goals sound commendable, but a closer look raises questions. Clearly, lots of money is moving toward jobs and construction company profits. But, as we learned from the environmental group KFEM (Korean Federation for Environmental Movement) (KFEM blog here) at their headquarters in Seoul, and then with others from the KFEM Yeoju office, who took us along the Namhan--the south fork of the Han River--the listed benefits seem exaggerated. This nation, though densely populated, has a good water supply; episodes of flooding occur primarily on upper tributaries, rather than the main channels where the work is focused; and the engineering approach seems likely to degrade water quality, because slowing the flow will increase accumulation of algae and pollutants. Most blatantly, the removal of natural wetlands and streamside vegetation is not “river restoration,” but rather destruction of habitat and natural processes.
The United States went through a river damming and channel straightening/concrete armoring stage in the last century. In California we lost 90% of our wetlands and riparian woodlands and our extensive list of endangered species is closely tied to that lost habitat. We, along with many other nations, learned that a more effective way to manage watershed systems is to protect and restore wetlands and allow floodplains to absorb high water episodes, regulating those flows while reabsorption and riverbank vegetation filters impurities.

So it was sad to watch the living river-bed being pulled out and lush riverside plateaus being excavated, to know that endangered plants and animals were being pushed even closer to extinction, and that small family farmers near the river were also being displaced. Though the construction destruction continues every day now, opponents of the project are determined that it must stop. On a poster in the Yeoju KFEM office, an excavator is being restrained by an aster plant, one of the endangered species being threatened by the project. Mr. Ma told us the words say, "Be Persistent, It is Your River."

Currents - Episode 4 - South Korea

Currents - Episode 4 - South Korea from Five 2 Nine Productions on Vimeo.

Currents is a river stewardship focused WebTV program (online video documentary) which uses white water kayaking as a means to educate a broader audience about the risks threatening the world’s rivers and to help highlight the intrinsic value of preserving rivers in their natural state.

The 'Currents - Episode 4 - South Korea' is a short documentary on rivers of the country, especially on the four largest rivers impacted by the Four Rivers Restoration Project which is building more than 18 new dams amd removing 570 million cubic meters of sand and gravel from the bottom of the rivers and their riverine wetlands.


Sitting in on the Ipo Dam

On July 22, three environmental activists of Korea Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM)/Friends of the Earth Korea went up to the more than 20 meter high top of the Ipo Dam which is one of the 18 new dams being constructed as the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project of South Korea.

It is 12th day, today and they are still sitting in on the top of the dam with banners saying "Listen to the Voices of People", "SOS 4 Rivers" and "Let the 4 Rivers Flow". Though they are suffering from heat wave, fatigue, food and water shortage and communication problems, they are very determined that they would not stop their sit-in before S. Korean government to stop the project and to let an independent body to be formed to examine the feasibility of the project.

Here is a short video of the first day of the sit-in produced by the Hani News.

Ramsar Network Japan's Statement to stop the Four Rivers Project

Here is a statement of the Ramsar Network Japan urging South Korean government to stop the Four Rivers Project.





 特に、2008年に韓国で行われたラムサール条約第10回締約国会議(Ramsar COP10)は、湿地保全に関わる世界のNGOのネットワークを強化する意味でも重要な機会となりました。

 そのRamsar COP10の直後に、韓国政府がすすめている四大河川開発事業は、ハンガン(漢江)、クムガン(錦江)、ナクトンガン(洛東江)、ヨンサンガン(栄山江)の四つの河川に20ヶ所以上のダムと堰を建設し、土砂浚渫の総量は 5.7億立方メートルに及ぶなど、極めて大規模なものです。韓国政府は、この事業による生態系へのダメージを否定していますが、四大河川開発事業は、国際的に重要な渡り鳥の渡来地を消滅させ、河川流域の希少な動植物の生息を脅かすものに他なりません。すでにラムサール条約に登録されている条約湿地への悪影響も懸念されています。

 私たちは、Ramsar COP10の開会式で、イ・ミョンバク大統領自身が「ラムサール条約の模範的な国家になる」と演説したことを忘れていません。その直後に、このような大規模な湿地環境の破壊を主導する韓国政府の行為は、ラムサール条約への挑戦と言っても過言ではありません。


 2月26日から 3月1日の視察では、ハンガン、ナクトンガンの上流域、クムガンの12ヶ所を訪ね、7月9日から11日の視察では、ナクトンガンの上流、中流から河口部の10ヶ所を訪れました。私たちが見たものは、河川を遮断するように巨大なダムが建設され、河畔林が根こそぎ切り払われ、背後地に、膨大な浚渫土砂がうず高く積み上げられている現実でした。あわせて、事業の目的である治水、利水について、専門の研究者の意見を聞きましたが、この事業の有効性は認められませんでした。





 今年10月には、日本の名古屋で生物多様性条約の第10回締約国会議(CBD-COP10)が行われます。韓国の四大河川開発事業は、生物種・遺伝子・生態系の多様性の保全を掲げる生物多様性条約の観点からも重要な問題であり、現在のように、自然保護団体や多くの住民からの反対の声を無視し、工事を続行したまま、韓国政府が CBD-COP10に参加することとなれば、国際的な批判を免れることはできません。



한국 4대강 사업 공사 중단을 요구하는 긴급 성명

일본 람사르네트워크

우리 일본람사르네트워크는 한국의 이명박 정부가 4대강 사업 공사를 즉각 중단하고, 환경 단체 및 지역 주민들과 대화를 통하여 4대강 사업의 목적을 처음부터 재검토할 것을 요청합니다.

일본람사르네트워크는 오랜 기간 일본의 갯벌과 습지 보전에 노력해온 민간 풀뿌리 단체의 네트워크입니다. 지난 15년 동안 한국의 NGO와 긴밀한 교류를 통하여 한국과 일본 두 나라에서 활발한 활동을 이루어 왔습니다.

특히 2008년 한국에서 열린 제10차 람사르협약 당사국총회는 습지 보전과 관련된 세계의 NGO 사이에 네트워크를 강화하는 의미에서도 중요한 기회가 되었습니다.

람사르총회가 끝난 직후부터 한국 정부가 추진하고 있는 4대강 사업은 한강과 금강, 낙동강, 영산강의 네 하천에 20여 개 이상의 댐과 보를 만들고, 토사 준설 총량이 5.7억 ㎥에 이르는 매우 큰 규모의 사업입니다.

한국 정부는 이 사업으로 인한 생태계 피해를 부인하고 있지만, 4대강 사업은 국제적으로 중요한 철새 도래 지역을 파괴하고, 하천 유역의 희귀 동식물 서식지를 위협하고 있다는 점을 부정할 수 없습니다. 이미 람사르협약에 등록되어있는 습지도 악영향이 미칠 것으로 우려되고 있습니다.

우리는 람사르총회 개회식에서 이명박 대통령 자신이 "람사르 협약의 모범적인 국가가 될 것"이라고 연설한 것을 잊지 않고 있습니다. 그런데 총회 직후에 이 같은 대규모 습지 환경 파괴를 주도하는 한국 정부의 행위는 람사르협약에 대한 도전이라고 해도 과언이 아닙니다.

우리 일본람사르네트워크는 한국습지NGO네트워크와 공동으로 올해 들어 벌써 두 번째 4대강 사업 공사 현장을 조사했습니다.

2월 26일부터 3월 1일의 1차 조사에서 한강과 낙동강 상류 지역, 금강 일대의 12곳을 방문하였고, 7월 9일부터 11일의 2차 조사에서는 낙동강 상류에서 중류와 하구의 10곳을 방문했습니다.

우리가 본 것은 하천을 단절하는 듯한 거대한 댐이 건설되고 있었으며, 강변의 숲이 뿌리째 뽑혀지고 있었고, 배후 지역에는 준설된 토사가 엄청난 높이로 쌓여 있는 현실이었습니다. 아울러, 사업의 목적인 치수와 이수에 대하여 전문 연구자의 의견을 들었습니다만 이 사업의 유효성을 확인할 수 없었습니다.

우리는 이와 같은 환경 파괴 현장을 목격하고 큰 분노를 느끼지 않을 수 없었습니다. 동시에 매우 유감스럽게 생각하는 것은 한국에서 파괴되어 버린 하천 환경이 일본의 하천 환경과 비교해도 훨씬 더 좋은 환경이었다는 점입니다.

현 시점에서 파괴를 피할 수 있었던 자연 환경은 반드시 보전해야 하며, 이미 파괴된 자연환경도 반드시 복원을 해야 한다는 것이 바로 람사르협약의 입장입니다.

환경문제에는 국경이 없다고 합니다만, 한국의 4대강 하천 환경은 아시아에서도, 또한 국제적으로도 중요한 가치를 가지고 있습니다. 그럼에도 불구하고 한국 정부는 그 가치를 정확하게 평가하고 있지 못합니다.

7월 22일부터 한국 환경운동연합의 활동가들이 남한강의 이포보와 낙동강 함안보의 수문 위에서 농성을 시작하고 한국 정부에 대해 공사 중단과 대안을 검증하는 기구 설치를 요구하고 있습니다.

우리는 그들이 이 같은 행동에 이르게 된 것은 정부의 환경영향평가와 합의 형성 절차가 충분하지 못했다는 점에 그 이유가 있다고 이해하며, 그들의 요구가 문제 해결 위해 필요 불가결하다고 생각합니다.

올해 10월, 일본 나고야에서 제10차 생물다양성협약 당사국총회(CBD COP10)가 열립니다. 한국의 4대강 사업은 생물종과 유전자, 생태계의 다양성 보전을 내건 생물다양성협약의 관점에서 보더라도 중요한 문제이며, 지금과 같이 환경단체와 많은 주민의 반대 목소리를 무시하고 공사를 진행한 채 한국 정부가 생물다양성협약 당사국총회에 참가한다면 국제적인 비판을 피할 수 없을 것입니다.

우리는 한국 정부가 이 상황을 방치하지 않고 냉정한 판단을 통해 4대강 사업의 공사를 중단하고 환경단체와 지역 주민과 대화를 통해서 사업의 목적을 처음부터 재검토할 것을 요청하는 바입니다.


KFEM Activists Sitting-in at 2 New Dams in South Korea

KFEM Activists Start Sitting-ins at 2 New Dams Construction Sites in South Korea

“Stop the Destructive Four Rivers Project and Seek to Find Alternatives”

At 04:00, 22 July 2010, 5 KFEM activists occupied a 20 meter high top of the Ipo Dam on the South Han River (or Namhan River) and 40 meter high tower crane at the Haman Dam on the Nakdong River which are under construction as Four Major Rivers Restoration Project. Mr. Yum Hyung-cheol, Director of KFEM Seoul, Mr. Park Pyung-soo, Chair of Executive Committee of KFEM Goyang, and Mr. Jang Dong-bin, Director of KFEM Suwon are sitting in the Ipo Dam on the South Han River and Mr. Choi Soo-young, Director of KFEM Buan and Mr. Lee Hwan-mun, Director of KFEM Jinju are sitting in the tower crane at the Haman Dam on the Nakdong river.
They will keep sitting in there until their requests will be accepted by President Lee Myung-bak and his administration. They said in a statement which was released on the day that “we can not put up with the destructive Four Rivers Project as environmentalists. This is the only thing we can do at the moment because the government would not listen to voices of people and ignores all suggestions from any concerned people”.

The South Korean government published the master plan for the 'Four Major Rivers Restoration Project' on 8 June 2009. The project is building more than 20 new dams on the four largest rivers of the country and dredging 570 million cubic meters of sand and gravel from 691 km long sections of the rivers with total expense of 17.4 billion U.S. dollars which is the tax payers’ money. The project is one of the economic stimulus packages to create jobs in accordance with so-called “Low Carbon & Green Growth” strategy of the S. Korean government.

The four rivers are sources of drinking water for two-thirds of S. Korean population and are home to many wild animals and plants including a lot of endangered and protected species.

We, KFEM, demand that the President Lee Myung-bak;
- to recognize public concerns on the project and stop it immediately
- to create a mechanism to find alternatives to the project
- and to consult with concerned civil society organizations and local people.

Five activists will continue their sit-ins on the top of the dam and the tower crane until Pesident Lee Myung-bak answer to their request. We hope our requests to the government will be accepted and carried out.

* Please write letters to President and Ministers of S. Korea and show your concerns over the 4 Rivers Project.
- Mr. Lee Myung-bak, President of Republic of Korea webmaster@president.go.kr
- Mr. Chung Jong-hwan, Minister of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs chungceo@mltm.go.kr
- Mr. Lee Maanee, Minister of Environment eman2mev@me.go.kr
= with cc to Mr. Ma Yong-un at KFEM/FOE Korea at ma@kfem.or.kr

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

Thank you very much in advance for your support.
Let the river flow!!!

▲ "SOS 4 Rivers", "Let the Rivers Flow". 3 Environmental activists of KFEM went up to the top of the Ipo Dam which is being built by the 4 Rivers Project in South Korea.

▲ "Let the 4 Rivers Run!" Environmentalists of KFEM went up to the top of the Ipo Dam which is being built by the 4 Rivers Project in South Korea. 

▲ "SOS 4 Rivers", "Let the 4 Rivers Run!" Environmentalists of KFEM went up to the top of the Ipo Dam which is being built by the 4 Rivers Project in South Korea.

▲ "Listen to the Voices of People" Environmentalists of KFEM went up to the top of the Ipo Dam which is being built by the 4 Rivers Project in South Korea.

▲ Two activists of KFEM started sitting-in protest on a tower crane at Haman Dam construction site on the Nakdong River, South Korea. (Photo by Kim Yong-man, Newsis)

▲ Two activists of KFEM started sitting-in protest on a tower crane at Haman Dam construction site on the Nakdong River, South Korea. (Photo by Radioin)

▲ Two activists of KFEM started sitting-in protest on a tower crane at Haman Dam construction site on the Nakdong River, South Korea. (Photo by Radioin)

▲ "Stop the 4 Rivers Project", "Are 4 Rivers Yours? Listem to the Voices of the People".  Two activists of KFEM started sitting-in protest on a tower crane at Haman Dam construction site on the Nakdong River, South Korea. (Photo by Radioin)

▲ Two activists of KFEM are keeping sitting-in protest on a tower crane at Haman Dam construction site on the Nakdong River, South Korea. (Photo by Kim Yong-man, Newsis)

※ Updates:
The two environmental activists who had been sitting in on the 40 meter high tower crane of the Haman Dam construction site for 20 days from July 22nd stopped the sitting-in in the evening of August 10th because a typhoon was approaching. The typhoon was expected to pass near the site early tomorrow morning and there was heavy rain with strong wind at the site.

Leaders of local environmental organizations, civil society organizations and religious groups had a meeting in the afternoon and decided to persuade them to stop the sitting-in. Governor of the Gyeongnam Province and local politicians also came to the site to persuade them.
The two activists had been refusing to stop the sitting-in as their demands for the government to stop the Four Rivers Project, to form a mechanism to review the project were not met. But, they decided to stop it when leaders of local civil society organizations came to the tower crane and refuse to leave in the heavy stormy rain unless the two activists stop the sitting-in and come down to the ground.
The two activists had been arrested by the police after having a short press conference on the ground, but they were released after two day long police custody when the local court dismissed the warrant of arrest submitted by a local prosecutor.



Nakdong River from the Air

It is a news report by the Busan MBC broadcasted on June 13, 2010. It shows that what is happening to the Nakdong River which is being damaged by 8 new dams construction and extensive dredging. The S. Korean government is extracting 440 million cubic meters of sand from the river. Both damming and dredging will cause big negative impacts on the ecosystem and biodiversity of the river which used to have a few important riverine wetlands for birds and other wildlife species.

Rivers Must Flow - a short movie on the 4 Rivers Project

Here is a short movie titled with "Rivers Must Flow".
You will be able to see how beautiful the rivers in South Korea were. Unfortunately the four largest rivers of the country are being destroyed in the name of the "Four Rivers Restoration Project" which builds more than 20 new dams and removing 570 million cubic meters of sand and gravel from the rivers.
The movie was editted by Seopung with photos taken by many people from religious and environmental groups, and Seopung.


▶◀ A Buddhist Monk Burned Himself to Death in His Protest against the 4 Rivers Project

Reverend Munsu, a Buddhist monk and zen master burned himself to death in the afternoon of May 31, 2010, in his protest against the Four Rivers Restoration Project of South Korea.

It is his own will written by his hand. It says "Lee Myung-bak administration should stop and scrap the Four Rivers Project. Lee administration should eradicate cor...ruption. Lee administration should try its best to support ordinary, poor and underprivileged people instead of chaebols and rich people."

In South Korea, the government is just pushing ahead the Four Rivers Project which is building more than 20 new dams and to dredge 570 million cubic meters of sand and gravel from riverbeds and riverine wetlands in the name of 'River Restoration'. The project is faced with strong opposition from local environmental groups, religious leaders and opposition parties, but the Lee administration is not willing to listen to voices of various concerns.

Here is his own hand-written will.

▶◀ May he rest in peace.


Impacts of the Four Rivers Restoration Project on the South Han River in Yeoju, South Korea

Impacts of the Four Rivers Restoration Project on the South Han River in Yeoju, South Korea

The government of S. Korea has been destroying four largest rivers in the country by building more than 20 dams and dredging 570 million cubic meters of sediments from the bottom or the rivers since November, 2009. Though the government argues that it is to restore the rivers, but hundreds of important riverine wetlands including sand bars, gravel bars, riverine forests and vegetations are being destroyed due to extensive dredging and dams construction.

Such riverine wetlands are important habitats for many rare and endangered wildlife species such as many waterbirds including White-naped Cranes, Hooded Cranes and Long-billed Plovers; mammals including Eurasian River Otters and Korean Water Deers; reptiles including Korean Tiger Lizards; and plants such as Aster altaicus.

Here are some photos showing the impacts of ongoing Four Rivers Project on riverine wetlands along the Namhangang (South Han River) in Yeoju, South Korea. The river is one of the four rivers to be impacted by the projet and there are three dams being built in the area.

▲ Jeonbuk-ri Wetland
The natural riverine wetland is being damaged to make new park area with a swimming pool, walking path, bicycle trail, picnic area, parking lots and artificial wetland.

▲ Geumsa Wetland
The natural riverine wetland is being damaged to make new park area with walking path, bicycle trail, picnic area, parking lots and artificial wetland.

▲ Ipo Dam 01
Large sand and gravel bars downstream of the Ipo Bridge was gone due to the Ipo Dam construction. The shallow water down the bridge used to be an important habitat for two endemic and endangered freshwater fish species, KUGURI Gobiobotia macrocephala and DOLSANG-EO Gobiobotia brevibarba. The large sand bars between the dam and the bridge in the back will be turned into a football park, a in-line stake park and other sports and recreational area.

▲ Ipo Dam 02

▲ Ipo Wetland 01
Almost all the natural riverine wetland area is being damaged to make a camping grounds with walking path and bicycle trail.

▲ Ipo Wetland 02
Almost all the natural riverine wetland area is being damaged to make recreational areas including a football park, an in-line stake park, walking path, bicycle trail and camping grounds.

▲ Dangsan-ri
It is a riverine wetland along the South Han River at the Dangsan-ri, Yeoju, South Korea has gone because of massive dredging.

▲ Eunmorae-Geummorae Beach
The name of the beach means 'Silver Sand and Golden Sand Beach'. But almost all the sand and gravel from the beach have already been removed from it because of the massive dredging to deepen and widen the river's waterway.

▲ Iho Wetland
The riverine wetland with willow forest, reed-bed and other wetland vegetations has completely destroyed because of the extensive dredging. The rest of the land by the riverbank will be changed into recreational area with sports park, walking path, and bicycle trail.

▲ View from the Iho Bridge
When they dredge and deepen the river, they built a dyke in the middle of the river and drain the water of the half of it. And then, excavators and dump trucks go into the drained riverbed to dig up and remove sediments and bedrocks from it.

▲ Sinjin-ri Iho Wetland
The natural riverine wetland is being damaged to make a park area including artificial fishway for freshwater fishes to pass the Gangcheon Dam.

▲ Gangcheon Dam 01
Gangcheon Dam is one of the three large dams being built on the South Han River in Yeoju, South Korea. Construction of the dam started in November, 2009.

▲ Gangcheon Dam 02
Gangcheon Dam is one of the three large dams being built on the South Han River in Yeoju, South Korea. Construction of the dam started in November, 2009 and all the riverine wetland and sand and gravel bars are gone now.

▲ Gangcheon Wetland 01
Gangcheon Wetland, located at the lower part of the Bawi-neupgubi Wetland, is an important riverine wetland along the South Han River in Yeoju, South Korea. The wetland was full of willow forest and reed beds. It also used to be a habitat for an endangered and endemic plant species, DANYANGSSUKBUJAENGI Aster altaicus, but the wild population of the plant had been transplanted in early April and the wetland is being damaged because extensive dredging was started in mid April.
▲ Gangcheon Wetland 02

▲ Gangcheon Wetland 03

▲ Bawi-neupgubi Wetland
Bawineupgubi is a wetland area located in the mid/downstream area of the South Han River where sand and silt gets accumulated along tributary streams branching off. The current flows slowly along the streamlines due to the rivers very wide. There are large riparian wetland, floodplain, small islet, sand bars and gravel bars in the wetland area. Bawi-neupgubi wetland is an important habitat for an endangered and endemic plant species, DANYANGSSUKBUJAENGI Aster altaicus and Korean Tiger Lizard Eremias argus. Both are protected species designated as Endangered Species Category 2 by the Ministry of Environment.


Rivers project puts church and state at odds in South Korea


Rivers project puts church and state at odds in South Korea

Tue, 25 May 2010 15:46 
By Hannah Bae

SEOUL: As South Korea gears up for local elections on June 2, church and state are clashing over a large-scale public works project on the nation's main rivers.

Christians and Buddhists have been stepping up their opposition to the four major rivers restoration project, said Mark Whitaker, a professor of environmental sociology at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

"I was quite shocked to see focusing in front of my eyes 'eco-religion,' the thing I've been writing about in the past five to six years," he said.

The 22.2-trillion-won (RM61-billion) construction scheme aims to improve water quality, prevent floods and droughts, secure water supplies, add tourist facilities and contribute to regional development, according to the government. It involves the Han, Nakdong, Geum and Yeongsan rivers.

Environmentalists criticised the ecological consequences after the government's June 2009 release of its master plan for the project, a pet initiative of President Lee Myung Bak.

Park Chang Kun, a professor of civil engineering at Kwandong University, questioned the planned installation of 16 weirs on the rivers.

"The essential function of a weir is maintaining the water level, which is far from flood control," Park wrote. "Furthermore, installing weirs actually makes the quality of the water worse, and causes irreversible destruction of the ecosystem."

Religious groups have begun to join the conservationists' efforts.

Hot spot
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea in March expressed concern about "potentially deadly environmental fallout". Some 200 churches across Seoul hung up banners bearing messages like "Stop the four major rivers restoration project now -- it goes against the order of creation."

Also in March, the Venerable Sugyeong, the standing chairman of Buddhist Environmental Solidarity, opened the Yeogang Zen Center, a protest site on the banks of the Han River.

There, members of conservationist groups like the Eco-Horizon Institute and Korea Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM) join Buddhists for weekly protests.

"We need to realise that we are the river and the river is us," Venerable Sugyeong said. "We need to be in a position to resist what's happening here."

"The first rule in Buddhism is don't kill other things, because humans rely on animals, water and air and cannot stand on our own," said Venerable Jigwan, chairman of a Buddhist committee opposed to the project.

"In the process of destroying the rivers, we are killing ourselves -- that's how we take it."

Ma Yong Un, a KFEM wetlands researcher, has been camping out at the Yeogang centre to raise awareness of endangered plant and animal species, like the fig marigold and Korean tiger lizard.

"This area is a hot spot on the four rivers project," Ma said. "If we miss this opportunity, it will be harder to conserve these plants and animals."

Growing opposition

The National Election Commission in late April reacted to growing public opposition to the project by deeming it a "hot issue" and banned political parties from making campaign pledges about it.

In addition, religious and civic groups have been barred from discussing the issue at rallies.

But the commission's gag has been ineffective. Criticism continues, most notably in a May 10 mass religious protest held at Seoul's Myeongdong Cathedral that drew about 10,000 people.

Kim Seung Kyum, a public relations specialist at the Office of National River Restoration under the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, said the environmentalists and religious leaders have been insisting on "preservation", but the rivers need more.

"Nothing built on nature is the best for the wildlife habitat," he said, adding that the government was reviewing the protesters' claims and was ready to accept reasonable conclusions.

Meanwhile, the government continues to paint a rosy picture of the project's economic benefits, with a recent land ministry report saying some 10,364 people were working on the construction sites as of mid-May.

The workers' collective 20-billion-won monthly wages "will revive the purchasing power of the middle class and revitalise local economies," the report said.

"I expected the quality of life and economy here to improve," said Hong Seong Beom, 25, who works at a riverside restaurant in Yeoju.

"But now that construction has started," he said, gesturing at the river, "the water isn't flowing, it's cloudier, and fish are dying."

Son Kyung Hee, a resident of Daejeon on the Geum River, said despite the real economic benefits, she thinks the four rivers are just a construction scheme disguised as an environmental project.

"There seems to be no national consensus," she said. "I think the government is not telling the truth... "



South Han River from the air

It is a short video which shows the areal view of the South Han River in Yeoju, South Korea.
The river is being destroyed in the name of "Rivers Restoration". The government of South Korea initiated so-called the '4 Rivers Restoration Project' last year building more than 20 new dams and dredging 570 million cubic meters of sediments from the four largest rivers of the country.
As you can see from the video, almost all the riverine wetlands and river shallows will be gone due to the dam building and extensive dredging.
The original photos were taken by an environmental activist of the National Committee to Stop the 4 Rivers Project working at the Yeogang Seonwon in Yeoju, South Korea.


4 Rivers Restoration; impacts on wetlands of the South Han River

Pleae have a look at the short video which shows what is happening to the South Han River and wetlands along it in Yeoju, South Korea.
The government of S. Korea has been destroying four largest rivers in the country by building more than 20 dams and dredging 570 million cubic meters of sediments from the bottom or the rivers. Though the government argues that it is to restore the rivers, but hundreds of important riverine wetlands including sand bars, gravel bars, riverine forests and vegetations are being destroyed due to extensive dredging and dams construction. Such riverine wetlands are important habitats for many rare and endangered wildlife species such as many waterbirds including White-naped Cranes, Hooded Cranes and Long-billed Plovers; mammals including Eurasian River Otters and Korean Water Deers; reptiles including Korean Tiger Lizards; and plants including Aster altaicus.


Lies behind the 4 Rivers Project

Here is a short video on the "Four Rivers Restoration Project" in South Korea. The S. Korean government is talking that it is restoring the 4 largest rivers in the country, but it is only destroying the rivers by building more than 20 new large dams and dredging 570 million cubic meters of sand and gravel from the rivers in the name of "River Restoration". The project is damaging more than 100 riverine wetlands along the 4 rivers which are important habitats for many rare and endangered wildlife species in the country.



SBS News Report on the 4 Rivers Project

The SBS TV, one of national TV channels in South Korea reported a news yesterday, April 13th, 2010 that the Dori Islet, an important habitat for endangered animal species such as Korean Tiger Lizard Eremias argus and endangered plant species such as Aster altaicus var. uchiyamae is being damaged due to the Four Rivers Restoration Project of the country.
The government is trying to make an articifial Ecological Park at the site after dredging large amount of sand and gravel from the islet. The EIA report for the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project did not include such endangered species inhabitating the site. And there is no measures to protect such endangered species at the site.
Why does the South Korean govern want to damage the precious natural habitat just to make an artificial park?

▲ SBS news report on April 13, 2010.  (Click the white square in the middle of the picture, then after a short TV commercial about 16 seconds, you will be able to watch the news.)

▲ A shoot of endangered plant species Aster altaicus var. uchiyamae at the Dori Islet is about to be trampled down due to the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project  (Photo: The Hankyoreh newspaper)


Decoding the Four Rivers confusion - The Hankyoreh

Here is a very good article by the Hankyoreh on the Four Rivers Project. The Hankyoreh is one of national newspapers in South Korea and is considered as the most reliable newspaper in the country.

[Column]Decoding the Four Rivers confusion

The Hankyoreh Posted on : Apr.2,2010 12:59 KST

» Jeong Seok-gu, Senior Editorial Writer

Every time President Lee Myung-bak emphasizes the necessity of the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project, I find myself at a loss, confused as to whether he says such things with an understanding of the true picture, or if he is doing so according to some other political understanding. Most disconcerting of all is when he claims that the project saves animal and plant life and restores the ecosystem. Religious groups, including Catholics and Buddhists, are currently waging a campaign of strenuous opposition and calling the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project an act of killing. Which side is the one restoring life, and which is the one ending it?

President Lee says that the four rivers are severely polluted and that their birds and fish are dying. That severe pollution situation does arise from time to time during droughts or when wastewater and sewage flow into the river, but calling the rivers so filthy that birds and fish cannot live in them is a distortion of the truth. He also uses this misguided assumption as a basis for saying that the primary goal of the project is to save these precious lives. It is a mind-boggling logical leap.

Go to one of the construction sites for the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project. You will see that the once beautiful riversides, with their thick reeds and willows and their white beaches, are now being trampled by excavators and construction vehicles. A jet-black polluted layer of mud is being laid bare at the sites, while the formerly blue waters are turning yellow with mud. Far from saving lives, they are destroying the very habitats of these fish and birds. Some might say that all construction sites are like this at first. But will life go back to normal once the construction ends as planned? Every place will be blocked off with dams, the riverside decked out in concrete. It is not a natural, but an artificial river that drives away life. Currently, countries like Germany and the U.S. are tearing down the dams they have built on rivers over the years and are restoring them to their natural state. If the Lee Myung-bak government does not know the reason for this, it is simply ignorant, and if it does know and yet believes it can solve the resulting problems with the latest technology, it is indicative of an arrogant disregard for the order of nature.

President Lee says that the project is his own conviction, and that he needs to persuade the people who oppose it. He frequently cites examples such as the Cheonggyecheon and the Seoul-Busan Expressway. He seems to be saying that while those projects also had opponents, he followed through with them according to his own convictions, and everyone is pleased with the results. Every time I hear this, I find myself wondering whether the president thinks all South Koreans have the intellectual capability of a kindergartner. The Cheonggyecheon and the Seoul-Busan Expressway are completely different from the Four Major Rivers project. The Cheonggyecheon project changed a paved-over, rotting stream into a 5.8 km artificial concrete river. The Four Major Rivers Restoration Project involves no less than 1,300 km of living, flowing natural rivers. Comparing the two is a clear fallacy.

An even bigger cause for concern is when President Lee speaks as though he would be failing to fulfill his duty as president and committing some kind of crime against the state if he did not finish the project. The people never gave him the authority to blithely cut off and dig up the four rivers that form the mainstay of the Korean Peninsula. President Lee also said that if the project is turned into an instrument of political warfare, it is the nation’s future that will be sacrificed. However, the project itself is an act of barbarism, bringing down the country’s prestige and destroying the living space of our descendants.

Still, President Lee pushes stubbornly on, declaring that he will finish the project within his term. He completely ignores any recommendation to use just one of the rivers as a test case first, or any suggestion to implement the project in stages after carrying out a proper assessment of its environmental effects. No matter what problems or aftereffects are pointed out, it all falls on deaf ears.

What should be done now? Before doing anything, go to the four rivers and see the construction sites for yourselves. Even better, make a spring outing of it and go hand in hand with your children. If not, at least stop by the Nakdong River photo exhibition currently being held in Seoul, Busan and other locations throughout the country by Buddhist monk Jiyul. There, you will find the answer on what the true picture of the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project is, and what it is that we must do.


Reservoir Dogs - Music Video of the 'Windy City'

The 'Windy City', a South Korean music band produced a music video with the title of the . It was taken at the scene of the Four Rivers Project which is building more than 20 new dams and removing hundreds of million tonnes of sand and gravel from the four largest rivers of South Korea. You can see the workers at the project site were trying to block the atrists to sing songs along the river.


Impacts of the 4 Rivers Project on Waterbirds

The Birds Korea published an excellent report which clearly shows that there will be a major impact of the Four Rivers Project in South Korea on bird population, especially waterbirds. Here is the executive summary of the report.   

The Anticipated Impacts of the Four Rivers Project (ROK) on Waterbirds

Birds Korea Preliminary Report
Birds Korea

Executive Summary

Seasonal patterns of precipitation in the Republic of Korea resulted historically in seasonally shallow rivers and extensive floodplain wetlands supporting a rich avian biodiversity. Especially during the second half of the twentieth century, all large and most small rivers in the Republic of Korea have been modified to a greater or lesser degree by dams, reinforced banks and in some cases by estuarine barrages. Most stretches of river are also prone to disturbance from roads and other infrastructure along their flanks, and most floodplain wetland has already been converted for agriculture and other uses. While there are few historic data, several waterbird species have been lost to the Republic of Korea due to habitat loss and degradation or due to human pressure, while many other species have become more localised or have declined. Despite these changes, many stretches of river and estuaries still remain internationally important for waterbirds, and/or support globally threatened waterbird species, and should be conserved in accordance with national laws and e.g. the Ramsar Strategic Plan (2009-2015). The Four Rivers Project (launched in November 2009) threatens many of these remaining wetlands. It entails further simultaneous large-scale construction along the Han, the Nakdong, the Geum and the Yeongsan Rivers, four of the nation’s five largest rivers. It includes deep-dredging of 691 km of river, the construction of 16 new dams, the rebuilding of two major estuarine barrages, the strengthening of embankments and the construction of >1700 km of bicycle road and other tourist-related infrastructure. Predictions of the economic and social costs and benefits of the Four Rivers Project have been presented in a range of literature and statements. This preliminary report aims to assess some of the anticipated impacts on waterbirds of the Four Rivers Project through (1) reduced flood-pulse, (2) loss of shallow river habitat, (3) increased degradation and reduced opportunity for the restoration of estuaries, and (4) an increase in disturbance. Species and some of the sites that are likely to be affected are identified in the main through analysis of data generated by an annual bird census coordinated by the national Ministry of Environment (MOE Census) first conducted in 1999. Out of >140 sites now covered by the MOE Census, this report considers that 48 such sites are likely to be affected, in addition to several thousands of kilometre of stream and river that are not covered by the Census but which are included in related infrastructure plans. Data from these 48 sites can provide some insight into the numbers of waterbirds and the species likely to be most affected, and in future years should enable impacts of the Four Rivers Project to be monitored with greater confidence.

The MOE Census data also confirm that within the Republic of Korea shallow stretches of river and (near-natural) estuaries tend to support a higher density of waterbirds per hectare than river- impoundments, as also indicated by independent survey at the Geum Estuary during northward and southward migration and at the Yeongsan and Nakdong Estuaries throughout the year. In addition, the MOE Census data confirm that several species considered ecologically dependent on rivers, their floodplains and/or their estuaries are already nationally scarce, and in some cases have shown declines over the past decade. While analysis of the MOE Census is unable to produce national population estimates of very local and scarce species such as the globally Endangered Scaly-sided Merganser, in combination with other sources the data do confirm this species’ presence on a very few stretches of river and its ecological dependence on relatively undisturbed and free-flowing rivers.

This report concludes that without cancellation or adequate mitigation, the Four Rivers Project will impact ca. 50 bird species negatively (including 30 species of waterbird), causing further declines in several sensitive waterbird species that are ecologically dependent on shallow rivers, flood-plain wetlands and estuaries. It will also reduce the conservation value of at least one Ramsar site and negatively affect eight BirdLife-designated Important Bird Areas. As such the Four Rivers Project will hinder the nation’s efforts to achieve genuinely sustainable development as set out by the United Nations and the Millennium Development Goals (UN, 2008).

* For the full version of the report please go to http://www.birdskorea.org/Habitats/4-Rivers/BK-HA-Preliminary-Report-2010.shtml


Restoration or Devastation? - Science magazine, 26th, March, 2010

The Science magazine reported a very good article on the Four Rivers Restoration Project of South Korea. Here is a summary of the article.

You can read the full text here



Science 26 March 2010:

Vol. 327. no. 5973, pp. 1568 - 1570
DOI: 10.1126/science.327.5973.1568

News Focus

Environmental Restoration:
Restoration or Devastation?

Dennis Normile*

Launched last November, the South Korean government's Four Major Rivers Restoration Project calls for building 16 dams, dredging 570 million cubic meters of sand and gravel to deepen nearly 700 kilometers of riverbed, renovating two estuarine barrages, and constructing bike trails, athletic fields, and parks along the waterways. At $19 billion, it is one of the costliest engineering projects in the country's history. And it is attracting fiery opposition, notably from the Professors' Organization for Movement Against Grand Korean Canal, a group of 2800 academics who accuse the government and supporters of twisting data and ignoring expert panel recommendations on issues such as water quality, flood control, rainfall patterns, and environmental impacts to justify a massive construction boondoggle. Both sides agree on one point: The project will dramatically transform the Han, Nakdong, Geum, and Yeongsan rivers.