The Investigation and Evaluation Planning Committee of the four major rivers project under the Ministry of Environment proposed on February 22, 2019 that among the five dams of the Geum River and Yeongsan River, Gongju dam and Sejong dam of the Geumsang River, and Juksan dam of the Yeongsan River should be dismantled, and Baekje dam of the Geum River and Seungchon dam of the Yeongsan River will be opened to the city. The method of handling the five dams was decided by the Investigation and Evaluation Planning Committee of the Four Major Rivers Project in November 2018. The measure will be submitted to the National Committee for Management of Goods, which will be launched in June 2019, and finalized in July. Given the precedent, however, it is highly likely that the recommendations will be decided as they are. As a result, residents in the affected areas are protesting due to the distribution of water resources and the problem of underground water, but environmental groups are welcoming the water due to the reason for conservation of the ecosystem and improvement of water quality around the rivers. With such sharp conflicts of interest among various groups, the government wants to find out why it is insisting on dissolution of the dam and find out about the various situations surrounding the four major rivers project.
Four Major Rivers Project
When Lee Myung-bak was a presidential candidate, he pledged to fund the completion of a Grand Canal project. In response to fierce criticism to the project, Lee revised the commitment to the major four rivers project. The project was aimed at reducing drought and flood damage and efficiently managing water resources through the readjustment of the four major rivers of the Republic of Korea: the Han River, the Nakdong River, the Geum River and the Yeongsan River. Along with water conservation, the project aimed to create a waterfront complex and pursue regional development at the same time. For this purpose, the project was carried out to set up dam and dams and to develop 'complex facilities for housing, commerce, industry, leisure and tourism' near the stream. The result of these proposed complexes are the Echo Delta City in Busan and the Gapcheon District in Daejeon. In addition, the government carried out projects such as building bike paths, dredging sedimentary soil, and building rest facilities. As precipitation is concentrated in summer, Korea has a difficult time securing water resources and is prone to floods or droughts. Since both agriculture and industry developed with the four rivers, so far, the pollution of the four rivers has been severe. Thus, theoretically, the four major rivers project is a necessary project for the situation in South Korea. However, the project took place in an extremely short time, from July 2009 to October 2011, compared to the size of about two years and three months. Moreover, it destroyed the nature of the river by wrapping its riverside and riverbeds with cement. It was criticized by many for maintaining a well-managed four-river's main stream not the stream, where floods and droughts frequently occur. The original budget was 22.2 trillion won, but the budget is estimated to have cost 30 trillion won.
Audit for the Four Major River Project
Audit of the Board of Audit and Inspection
Environmental groups and the Democratic Party, which was then the opposition party, demanded that the project be audited, and the Board of Audit and Inspection audited the project in January 2010. In January 2011, the Board of Audit and Inspection announced that the four major rivers project had no problems in terms of environmental impact assessment, preliminary feasibility study, and cultural assets survey; and only some problems appeared. However, those who insisted on the audit raised suspicions that there might have been external pressure, citing the fact that the audit period was longer than the general audit. The results were later announced, and the committee members were replaced during the investigation. In January 2012, an audit on the bank of reservoirs revealed that the project was poorly conducted by randomly selecting the district despite the low project effectiveness. However, in January 2013, the Board of Audit and Inspection reversed its previous audit and announced that the durability of dam is weak due to poor design, and that there are many problems in water quality due to incorrect prediction of water quality and incorrect application of management standards. In addition, despite the large size of the four major rivers, it was found that a repair is needed according to the standard for the installation of small dams. In particular, water quality has deteriorated to such a degree that it threatens the safety of drinking water. In July 2013, the fact that construction companies that participated in the project [was fixing] was exposed. Fair Trade Commission and Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs already knew the truth but they concealed it. It turns out that they had acquiesced. The project in Park Geun-hye's administration was revealed to have many problems. However, the government did not take any strong measures to remove the dams or scrap the project directly.
The Four Major Rivers Project Review of Moon Jae-in
Moon Jae-in instructed an audit for the four major rivers project after he took over authority. Although the previous government focused only on the corruption, the audit was conducted in a wider range, including an environmental impact assessment. However, Lee Myung-bak strongly opposed the audit, saying it was concluded through three audits. Moon Jae-in, however, constituted the Investigation and Evaluation Planning Committee of the four major rivers project in November 2018 and discussed how to handle the dams. As a result, the committee proposed a plan to dismantle Gongju dam, Sejong dam, and Juksan dam of the Yeongsan River among the five dams of the Geum River and Yeongsan River, and to open Baekje dam of the Geum River and Seungchon dam of the Yeongsan River to a permanent exhibition. However, local recognition items, which mean the actual degree of approval or disapproval of local residents, are within the margin of error, and it is hard to say that either side is definitely more dominant. In addition, the Ministry of Environment monitored the construction of the dams, which has been only about a year, so it is difficult to decide on the crucial issue of removing or maintaining the dams with this data. According to Kim Bum-cheol, professor of environmental convergence at Kangwon National University, it takes more than 10 years to persuade people about their misinformed reports such as drought resolution and flood prevention. He said "There are 34,000 dams in the whole country. We need to resolve them comprehensively, but we seem to have decided on the limits of this monitoring first."
Situation of Each Dam
Sejong dam is located at Sejong-ri, Yeongi-myeon, Sejong-si, Chungcheong Province. According to the committee, "We judged that if we keep Sejong dam for 40 years, the loss would be 33.3 billion won, and the benefits would be 97.2 billion won, which would be 2.92 times greater than the maintenance." Their profits are 63.9 billion won. The main benefit of the demolition of Sejong dam is a better ecosystem on the river at 75.5 billion won, followed by the improvement of water quality at 11.2 billion won. As a measure of these values, the willingness to pay was used. The willingness to pay technique is 'a technique that measures the level of money a particular group of subjects is willing to pay for the present or more improved conditions of a particular environment.' However, it is not a proper measure because the evaluation excluded the right to view the waterfront environment and the value of the waterfront landscape. Sejong City also predicts that the removal of Sejong dam will cost 2 billion won to install separate water collection facilities due to the lack of water in the Geum River. The Geum River Walking Bridge, which was built entirely as a tourist-oriented bridge, will have a fatal disadvantage as water leaked and affected the landscape when it was demolished.
Gongjubo is located in Ungjin-dong, Gongju-si, South Chungcheong Province. Gongju dam has also been determined by the committee on the benefits and cost to be demolished in the same way as Sejong dam. Gongju dam is the lowest of the three dams, with 1.08 times the cost of benefits. This is also controversial, with the exception of the Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD), Suspended Solids (SS), and Total Phosphorus (TP) items, which are commonly used in water quality assessment, but only related items such as green algae generation are included. In situations where the ratio of benefits and expenses is only 1.08, the differences in these items can result in significant differences in outcomes. Also, residents should use Gongdo Bridge, the upper part of Gongju dam. The committee proposed a plan to dismantle the remaining dam, leaving the bridge. However, Gongju dam seems to have been rated C in the safety assessment category. Therefore, if only part of the structure is dismantled, it could lead to a bigger accident. On this, Jeong Min-geol, an environmental education professor at Gongju University, said, "It may be better to build a bridge that connects the roads directly to Gongju," implying the danger.
The four major rivers project was a failure in the memory of many people. However, if we focus on each of the dams in the construction process, things can change. Sejong dam, Gongju dam, and Juksan dam, which were built at the cost of 180 billion won, are not yet ten years old. However, the fact that they will be evicted for 89.8 billion won is seen by the public as a justification fight for politicians. Nor does it seem justified for the government to unilaterally support certain sides at a time when there is no correct opinion from the most important local residents. Therefore, there should be sufficient discussion and explanation for these projects and not the government's alone, but the attitude of going out in cooperation with the people from the early stages. < 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >