[EDITORIALS]Complete Land Reclamation ProjectThe debate on the Saemangeum land reclamation project has been concluded with a compromise for gradual development. Accordingly, construction will resume after a two-year hiatus. Tension over the project, however, is expected for some time because of fierce opposition from civic groups and other organizations. One cannot help but deplore the fact that such a large-scale government project was undertaken before thorough review and that it has become hotly disputed after more than 1 trillion won ($776 million) has been pumped in and 60 percent of the construction completed.
The decision to gradually develop the area was not made because the problems sited by environmental organizations had been solved. We cannot deny the impression that politics were taken into consideration when the decision was made as was the case at the beginning of the project. Further, gradual development is a temporary fix that compromises the positions of the environmental groups and residents. The danger still looms that the Mangyeong River estuary may become a second Sihwa Lake, if the water distillation on the Dongjin River side is not carried out as planned once the tide embankment is completed. Despite these problems, the only option left for the government - as it has made its agonizing decision, after years of consultation with numerous experts on water quality, environment and economic viability - is to minimize the negative side effects and diligently complete the project.
The government should thoroughly review existing plans based on the negative side effects and problems cited. It should then rework a master plan on the budget, technology and other support necessary to smoothly execute the project. The government should seek the cooperation of environmental experts. And those opposed to the project should cooperate for national interest. To minimize the damage on crab beds and maintain the water quality, more money than estimated will be necessary. It is not desirable that environmental groups stage anti-government activities over the decision reached after years of debate and research. With both the positive and negative arguments known, we hope the project will bring environmentally friendly results.