[EDITORIAL] Sihwa Reservoir Fiasco

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[EDITORIAL] Sihwa Reservoir Fiasco

The government has scrapped the plan to fill Sihwa Reservoir with fresh water. Since tide embankments were constructed in 1994, the quality of the reservoir water has drastically deteriorated because of nearby household sewers, livestock drainage and industrial waste, and the project has continuously attracted criticism. In March 1997, with the Chemical Oxygen Demand reaching as high as 26 ppm, the government temporarily halted the plan and diluted the water by opening floodgates to the sea.

The plan to transform the Sihwa into a freshwater reservoir, kicked off in 1987, is a giant project that took 622 billion won ($489 million) to put up embankments alone. To improve water quality, 207.9 billion won was poured in until the end of last year, and an additional 280 billion won will be infused by 2006.

All in all, more than 1 trillion won in taxpayers' money will have been injected. The government says that even if the reservoir becomes a seawater body, the economic effects from having built the embankments are enormous and that a detailed plan to utilize the reservoir will be ready by next year. We believe, however, that the government has been wrong from the very beginning. It hastily built embankments without a sewer treatment system in place. Stagnant water is bound to rot. It was problematic to embark on the project without an accurate projection of demands from farmland and factory sites. The government is hard put to dodge the criticism that it pressed ahead with the project to use idle equipment after the Middle East construction business cooled in the mid-1980s.

The central government and concerned self-autonomies should put their heads together and come up with a plan to maximize the use of the Sihwa.

A project much larger than the Sihwa is the Saemangeum project that is now under way. This time, too, 60 percent of the embankment has been constructed with the basic environmental facilities pushed to the backburner.

This project should be promoted in parallel with a realistic measure to improve the water quality, if the same mistakes as in the Sihwa Reservoir are not to be repeated.
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