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Gov`t, MDP to push Saemangum project after boosting water quality

Gov`t, MDP to push Saemangum project after boosting water quality

Posted March. 05, 2001 19:44,   


The government and the ruling Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) are considering separating the controversial Saemangum project into two blocs -- covering the basin of the Dongjin River and the basin of Mangyong River, and pushing through with the planned development of the Dongjin River valley. The ruling camp is studying plans to resume the development project at the basin of the Mangyong River, an effort that sparked heated disputes over contamination, after purifying the water, an MDP lawmaker said Monday. The cost of the controversial reclamation project is estimated at 3.3 trillion won.

However, disagreements remain between government agencies and environmental organizations that oppose the project`s resumption sparked questions as to whether the project would be completed as scheduled.

The new plans that are now under consideration were unveiled in a government-MDP policy coordination meeting held at MDP headquarters. Participants included Rep. Kim Sung-Soon, chairman of the MDP third policy coordination committee, Rep. Yoo Yong-Tae, chairman of the National Assembly`s Environment-Labor Committee and the vice ministers of agriculture and forestry, environment, and maritime affairs and fisheries.

Emerging from the meeting, Rep. Kim said participants shared the view that the basin of the Dongjin River, whose water quality is considered ``not bad,`` would be developed first and Mangyong River basin portion of the project would be carried out after addressing environmental problems such as its poor water quality. He said a total of 1.3 trillion won was expected to be spent on overcoming environmental contamination in the Mangyong River basin.

An official of the Planning Corps for Water Quality Improvement at the Prime Minister`s Office said the government would make a final decision on the Saemangum project toward the end of March.

Toward this end, the government will collect opinions from related ministries and other sources on the basis of Monday`s government-MDP policy coordination meeting. The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) and the Ministry of Environment (MOE) do not support the plan. MMAF said the project should be shelved to preserve the silt in the estuaries of nearby rivers. MOE said it has not made a final decision on the project.

Environmental organizations said the results of the government-MDP policy coordination meeting are a sign that the government intends to push the Saemangum project as planned. They blamed the ruling camp for ignoring public opinion.

Earlier, the Prime Minister`s Office made public a number of reports on the controversial reclamation project by related agencies like the MOE, MMAF, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and North Cholla Province.

In a report on the estimated water contamination in Saemangum Lake, the MOE said the average annual water pollution level in the Mangyong River would remain at 0.103ppm in terms of the total density of phosphorus (T-P), despite all measures suggested by the MAF to purify the lake.

MOE also said authorities should consider purifying the Mangyong River by filtering its waters through the circular overflow method, taking into account the possible contamination of the marine ecosystem and the economic cost of alternative means.

Conversely, MAF and North Cholla Province said the project should only continue after authorities take appropriate measures to improve water quality, noting that the project`s suspension would invite an environmental disaster.

Moon Chul pullmoon@donga.com