Four Rivers report released

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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.

Your tax money at work—Four Rivers Project serious effed up

I’m shocked, I tell you! Shocked!

President Lee Myung-bak’s signature project to refurbish South Korea’s four major rivers is seriously flawed, posing a threat to the environment and even threatening dams and other facilities built along them, the state auditor said Thursday.

The 22.2 trillion won (US$20.1 billion) project, aimed at enhancing the nation’s water management system as well as preventing the Han, Nakdong, Geum and Yeongsan rivers from flooding, was completed last year, despite mounting criticism.

The project, one of Lee’s campaign pledges, has been at the center of controversy ever since due to the possible adverse influence it might have on the environment as well as allegations of shoddy construction.

22.2 trillion won to build poorly constructed dams and worsen water quality. Brilliant.

President-elect Park Geun-hye’s people are talking about forming a committee to reevaluate the project after she takes office, leading some to speculate about tensions between Park and outgoing president Lee Myung-bak. I say Park can reevaluate all she likes, but most of the damage is already done, and all a committee can likely do is tell us how much more money we’ll need to spend to mitigate the harm.

Low-Cost Riverside Bicycle-Camping with KTO

On the June 2-3 weekend,  the Korea Tourism Org is hosting a “Bike Camp” at Ipobo camping village, Yeoju-gun County, Gyeonggi Province. 40 bus seats are available departing from KTO’s Jongno building at 9am June 2nd.  For 20,000 you can get a seat and free access to bikes, horse rides, kayaking, water rafting and a BBQ meal.  You must bring your own camping gear or rent it at the site.  There is probably space under the coach to bring your own bikes and ride them back to Seoul along the Han River the next day if you want to.  Bus departs for return to Seoul at 12pm on Sunday.  “Families and fun people” are warmly invited, they do say.  Please contact Roger Shepherd roger@hikekorea.com if you’d like to attend or find out more.  This is part of the Four Rivers Bike-Trails project.

A Four Rivers Project Summary

The Economist has a neat little summary of the current state of LMB’s Four Rivers Project, which has drawn criticism from many quarters for its failure to protect threatened species as well as its budgetary excesses.  The article is here.