[ROSTRUM]A Proposal to Help Save Our PlanetA decision on the fate of the controversial Saemangeum reclamation project in North Cholla province has yet again been postponed by a commission set up to consider the issue. Advocates and opponents came up with such different views about the project's effects that even President Kim Dae-jung says that he feels burdened by the issue.
The United States' rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to fight global warming caused by the overuse of fossil fuels, has made clear how hard it is to protect the environment if it comes at the expense of immediate economic interests.
Advocates of the reclamation project argue that it would cost more to dismantle the seawall, which is 60 percent complete, than to continue to build it. Opponents argue that completing the wall and destroying the tidal flats for agricultural use would be environmentally disastrous. I have a proposal. I think that construction of the seawall should be halted at its present stage, and the tidal flats off Byeonsan, North Cholla Province saved. Then wind and solar power generators could be installed on the 33-kilometer seawall, and sluices and tidal power generators built at intervals along the giant embankment. The Saemangeum area could then become a model of massive environmentally friendly power facilities and evolve into a world-class tourist attraction.
As global warming raises the temperature of the sea water, chlorosis is spreading along the east coast. In other words, the sea is dying. In an odd phenomenon, squid, endemic off the east coast, have declined there sharply, but have appeared in the Yellow Sea.
The pollution in the Yellow Sea has been aggravated by the recent industrialization of China. Last winter we saw a lot of snow because an enormous mass of vapor produced by a rise in sea temperature collided with a cold front over Korea. A report that melting icebergs in the North Pole have opened a direct sea channel from Europe is also worrying.
Weather anomalies across the globe and global epidemics are also attributed to global warming.
Global warming is getting faster and faster. Scientists say that unless oil and coal, our major energy sources, are replaced by environmentally friendly energy, global temperatures may rise 5 degrees within a century. If that happens, they warn, humanity may head toward irrevocable disaster because of higher sea levels, expanding deserts and destroyed ecosystems. We should begin now, albeit belatedly, to develop alternative energy. If we are to catch up with other advanced economies, we have to raise our usage of eco-friendly energy to more than 10 percent within a decade from the current 0.1 percent. Developing alternative energy is also a good way to reduce our dependence on foreign energy supplies at a time of high oil prices, and to satisfy the Kyoto Protocol.
With abundant wind and sunlight, the Saemangeum beach has every necessary condition for wind and solar power generation.
Technological advances have dropped the cost for generating 1 kilowatt of wind energy per hour to a mere 4 cents, compared to 30 cents in the 1980s. That is lower than the cost of producing nuclear energy. Therefore, 200 1.5-megawatt windmills, which are commonly used in Europe, on the 33-kilometer seawall and another 300 units on the 6,610-hectare (16,200 acres) tidal flats would generate 750 megawatts of electricity, more than enough for the 4.8 million households in North Cholla province. If solar and tidal power generators were added, they would produce more power than a nuclear power plant. It costs about 3 billion won ($2.3 million) to install each 1.5-megawatt windmill. So the total cost would be less than a third of the 5 trillion won needed to continue the reclamation project. Given that around 200 billion won of income from electricity fees can be expected if the facilities operate at 25 percent of their capacity, the installation expenses could be recovered in seven or eight years.
The writer is a professor of food processing at Hoseo University.
by Yi Ki-young