An government investigative committee composed of outside experts has issued a report on the Four Rivers Project, and what you take from it will probably depend on what you thought of the project in the first place.
Ye Olde Chosun, for instance, penned the headline, “Four Rivers Investigative Committee Announces Results of 16-Month Investigation: ‘4 Rivers Project Had Some Side Effects, But Achieved Some Goals’… End of Controversy.”
Except nobody passed the “end of controversy” memo to the Hankyoreh, which blasted the report for shoddy, roughshod investigations and called for a parliamentary investigation into the project. Which will never happen.
The Chosun also ran an editorial approving of the investigation and cautiously supporting the project, or at least rejecting the claims of its opponents.
What the committee actually found was that six of the 16 dams built on the four rivers had minor structural problems but nothing particularly major. It also found that water quality in the Hangang, Nakdonggang and Geumgang rivers have generally improved, but it has worsened in the Yeongsangang and along four stretches of the upper Nakdonggang. Which is my favorite part of the Nakdonggang. No, I’m not being a wise ass – I spent my first three years in Korea living near the upper Nakdonggang, and very fond memories of that part of the river.
On the positive side of the ledger, the project seems to have helped prevent floods and the pooled water – when not becoming algae farms, I’m assuming – has been useful in dealing with drought. All for the low, low cost of KRW 22 trillion.
Wrote the investigators in their report:
“All in all, the four-river project has attained its goals to some extent … but it has generated some side effects because it was carried out too hastily amid some limited local river management technology,
So, basically, it’s the Cheonggyecheon writ large. Check that – the Cheonggyecheon, for all its flaws, I think is still a net positive for the city of Seoul. I’m not sure I could say that about the Four Rivers, at least not yet, anyway, especially considering the hasty, poorly thought-out manner in which that project was conceived and conducted.
Photo by Alex LA.