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
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.
Professor Seejae Lee
* Contact for further information:
Mr. Ma Yong-un, Director, Nature Conservation Team, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms. Yangyi Wonyong, Director, KFEM Public Relations Service, email@example.com
Korea Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM)/Friends of the Earth Korea
251 Nuha-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, 110-806, South Korea
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Inquiries: Mr. Peter Kwon at KFEM at email@example.com
* Please download the nomination form here
* More information on the SBS Eco Water Awards 2010
[Column] The specter of the Grand Korean Waterway
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.
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.
Chair, Friends of the Earth International
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 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.
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.
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。
한국 4대강 사업 공사 중단을 요구하는 긴급 성명
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.