Environment office calls for halt to four rivers project

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Environment office calls for halt to four rivers project

The Han River Basin Environmental Office, under the Ministry of Environment, requested that the government call off the four rivers project because restoration work on the small Dori Island in the Namhan River in Yeoju, Gyeonggi, is harming the environment and wiping out an endangered type of mugwort tree.

The office said yesterday it submitted an official request to the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs on April 15. The Han River office is investigating whether a construction company initialed H, in charge of renovating the area around the Han River, destroyed around 160 mugwort trees and left another seven dying.

President Lee Myung-bak’s administration started the four rivers project last year to restore the nation’s four major rivers and their banks, including the Han, Geum, Nakdong and Yeongsan. The project has faced harsh criticism from opposition parties and environmental groups, which say it will ruin the rivers’ ecosystems.

“We asked the Land Ministry to stop all construction on Dori Island and start research into the inhabitation patterns of the mugwort tree,” said Kim Pan-gyu of the environmental evaluation team at the Han River office.

Officials at Dori Island said that although the Environment Ministry found mugwort trees and Chinese skinks, a type of small lizard, both listed as endangered species, in the area last year, the Land Ministry did not put this fact in its environmental evaluation report.

The state-run Korea Water Resources Corporation, which commissioned the renovation project through the Land Ministry, said that it has now stopped all construction in Dori Island in areas with mugwort trees, but that construction will ultimately continue.

“There could be major legal repercussions,” said Hwan Min-hyeok, an environmental activist at the Citizens’ Committee Against the Four Rivers Project.

By Kang Chan-su [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]
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