|2000.09.01 21:47||2000.09.01 21:47 | Eco-system Conservation|
Korea's West Sea tidal flat is one of the world's best five tidal flats. Both large and small rivers empty into the seashore, hence, the West Sea tidal flat is composed of various types of silts, and mixtures of silt and sand. In Korea, the tidal flats covers an area of 2,800km, (3% of the total territory as of 1999). Individually the West Sea tidal flats make up 83% of the total tidal flats in Korea. and are blessed with extensive silts from the estuaries of big rivers. Most of the major tidal flats exist near the estuaries of major rivers, for example, the Kumkang, Young-sang and Han rivers. The Man-kyung river and Dong-jin river deposit silt into Saemangeum, the largest tidal flat in Korea.
These tidal flats are the nurturing place of many creatures: crabs, migratory birds, fish, etc. Silts used to develop in the West Sea tidal flat area supporting many different salt plants (sueda japonica, salicornia, and herbacea). However, most of the plants were eliminated due to reclamation projects and only halophytes in Sorae tidal flat, and the reed field in the Soonchun bay managed to survive. Under the pretext of limited territory, so many large-scale reclamation projects have been and are transforming the tidal flat coastline into land.
Saemangeum is the site of our past three years' fight. This is the world's worst tidal flat destruction site with 2.4 trillion won of construction costs to build 33 km of sea dike. This project will demolish 40,100 ha of silt flat at the estuary of the Mankyung river and Dongjin river. Despite the strong oppositions and protests from various environmental groups and civic groups, the project remains unfinished.
Increasing opposition from civil society and the local community have begun to slow the reclamation and forced the Government to consider reviewing the project. In September 1998, the National Audit Agency completed a review of the Saemangeum development project. Its reviewal included to review whole Saemangeum project due to predicted water pollution in Saemangeum fresh water lake.
In an unexpected development, on 19 April 1999 the South Korean Governments Water Quality Improvement Committee agreed to the establishment of a Saemangeum Project Environment Impact Assessment Team (SPEIAT).
The team examined two possible scenarios; the cancellation of Saemangeum Reclamation Project and its continuation. There were equal representation of members from environmental organizations and government. From May 1st, 1999 to April 30th, 2000 for a period of one year three sectors were investigated. They are marine environment, pollution in fresh water lake and economic benefit of the project.
Although Environmental Organizations including Green Korea United claimed there should be equal representation of members from environmental organizations and government, the majority were government representatives, thus overwhelming number of members approved the reclamation project. (10 Government Agents, 10 Experts recommended by governments, 10 Experts recommended by governments). Furthermore, the team had to end the report exchanging neither any information nor opinions. Which means that there was no understanding of the overall environmental impact and even with objective results the team was unable to decide whether to continue the project due to different interpretations. Therefore the report had to be finished without a conclusion regarding the project.
Despite the irrationality of the procedures, rumors have been heard that the Office of Prime Minister pressured the head of the representatives to make a conclusion of any sort. The head ignoring the consensus of the team, to make no conclusions, tried over and over again to add personal opinions such as 'continuing the project in an environmentally friendly way' in the conclusion part. But the civil representatives, after careful examination with objective investigations, judged that the Saemangeum reclamation project has to be put to an end.
1. Water Pollution in Reclaimed freshwater lake
- Reclaimed freshwater lake will rot without satisfying the environmental criteria.
There is a high probability that the freshwater lake would become contaminated from industrial and agricultural pollution.
With the current environmental facilities the Mankyung river watershed will be underrated. It is estimated that the purity level of the water will be worse than any other reclaimed fresh water.
The reason for this is that the water entering the Mankyung River is as polluted as the water flowing in the Shiwhaho lake, which is a symbol of failure of reclamation project because it created only heavily polluted lake, but the size of the lake(created by reclamation) is much larger compared to the amount of water inflow.
Even by the following measures taken on the Mankyung river watershed the evaluated water quality would be level 5, which is lower than the environmental criteria of level 4. Many experts have doubts about the implementation of the following measures, which were considered the best and most active of all methods presented yet by the government.
Water pollution control presented by the Ministry of Environment seems to be unrealistic. Futhermore there are doubts to the government's credibility, because there wasn't any case of lake improvement projects.
And, North Cholla Province showed no signs of green preservation nor Total Pollution Volume Regulation. It is highly probable that through the reclamation project the government is looking for opportunities to the development industrial complex.
▷ Water pollution control presented by the MoE
o Renounce the cancellation of the greenbelt in the Chunju area and preserve the green.
o Implement Total Pollution Volume Regulation and stop further development of cities and industries.
o Reduce 30% of farm-land fertilization
o Invest 97 billion won to establish environmental facilities.
Even if the water reaches level 4, it has been estimated that the mouth of the water flow to the Mankyung river watershed is the place most approached by people, thus it has a high possibility of being as polluted as the worst water level of the Shiwhaho lake occurred in 1997.
Whatever the measures taken, the concentration of algae will be greatest in the Mankyung and Dongjin river watersheds among any other reclaimed fresh-water lakes in Korea. Although the algae concentration is not part of the water level criteria, it could be a eutrophication standard for the lake. It means that the Saemangeum will be the worst reclaimed lake in Korea. Especially, the level of algae concentration in the Mankyung river watershed will be twice the amount of the worst lake currently existing. It simply means that the Saemangeum lake will rot.
2. Ecological value
The Saemangeum region is almost the only tidal-flat estuary left undamaged in the west coast. The tidal-flat supports the coast's ecological system and the tidal-flat estuary is the most productive region of all.
① National percentage of shellfish produced in the North Cholla Province - Meretrix lusoria 65.1%, Mactra veneriformis(surf clam) 81.0%, Sinonovacula constricta(Razor, Jack knife clam) 48.8%.
It could be estimated that over 50% of the total national shellfish are produced in the Saemangeum tidal-flats. The reclamation project will terminate the shellfish region in this industry.
② The estuary tidal-flat is known not only a producing area for shellfish but also a spawning and growing ground for much marine life. Research on tidal-flats are very limited, thus the estimated loss on the whole marine resource due to reclamation is unknown. But taken into account of the production of shellfish the damage would be very considerable.
③ The Saemangeum tidal-flat is the habitat and stopover for protected waterbirds.
o Habitat and stopover for 30 types of protected shorebirds. This is a good reason enough to protect the tidal-flat. (Spoonbill, stork,.. 18 natural monument, Ministry of Environment designated 8 endangered birds, 19 protected birds,......)
o Birds like longbill, plover and other east-asian migratory shore-birds will have no stopovers.
o Migratory birds, over half, flying north to Siberia and south to Australia and New Zealand are estimated to stopover at Saemangeum. We must not stop the passage route of these important migratory birds.
④ Water purification: It has the capacity to purify 25 tons of water waste, if blocked by dams the Mankyung River watershed will be below the satisfactory water level.
The above aspects show that the preservation of the Saemangeum area have as important ecological value as, or even more, the Dong-gang River(The dam project was cancelled due to ecological importance).
3. The Saemangeum reclamation project is not economically sound
Two positions exist in parallel on whether it is economically reasonable or not.
Position A. Economically Beneficial
- Food production from the reclaimed land
- Improvement on channeling the water-flow, agricultural benefit
- Prevention from flood
- Extension of territory
- Creation of fresh water lake
- Kokunsando(Island) welfare increase
- Traffic improvement
- Recovery of tidal-flat
- Public value of the reclaimed farmland
- Water improvements
- Prevention of hail by the sea dikes
- loss of wetland
- marine products
As seen from above there is an unbalance in the economic evaluation. Generally when calculating the benefit of some project it must strictly be direct and not indirect benefits. But the above list shows that there are also indirect benefits. There are also many factors attributing to the cost that has been left out. For example, in order to produce rice in the reclaimed land it is necessary to expand the territory, fresh water lake must be created, the water should be appropriately improved for farming and the farmland should be protected from hail. But the report added the 4 factors just mentioned together with the farming benefits, which is a double calculation. It also inflated the territorial expansion benefit by applying the city land price to the reclaimed land price in calculating the benefit.
Position B. Economically less-beneficial
The Benefit/Cost(B/C) ratio was found to be 0.29, which is economically unsound. This is actually the result without taking the water quality into consideration. In order to attain the level required for the Mankyung river watershed, the cost for complete processing of the animal waste must be added. Although the exact cost cannot be found, reducing 94.5% and 100% of pig & milk-cow and chicken and grazing cow(Korean) waste respectively is almost impossible.
The Government must stop the Saemangeum Reclamation Project, protect the tidalflats and list them as a Ramsar wetland!
Tidalflats are an asset which belongs to present and future generations. The resources we use are the accumulated remains of four billion years of Earth's history. We have a duty to hand down resources for future generation to use.
For present generations to enjoy development profits by destroying the conservation values of future generations contravenes the equity that should exist between generations. Economics has to recognize this fact and penalize those who attempt it.
The Saemangeum Reclamation project must be stopped, that is the only solution to the problem. Afterwards, if necessary, other alternatives including using the existing dikes for tidal generators could be found.
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