New leaders unite for alternative to rivers plan

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New leaders unite for alternative to rivers plan

Newly elected district and local government heads from the opposition Democratic Party yesterday pledged to work together to block one of President Lee Myung-bak’s signature projects - the redevelopment of Korea’s four major rivers - and develop a drastically revised alternative.

In a workshop attended by 99 regional government heads and others including DP leader Chung Se-kyun, South Jeolla Governor-elect Park Joon-yung and North Chungcheong Governor-elect Lee Si-jong, the leaders agreed to conduct a series of joint on-site examinations at construction sites on the rivers. Local government and council members will take part in the examinations, they said.

In a resolution, the leaders said “the public evaluation of the four rivers project has ended already,” and the plan must change to respond to public sentiment.

“After hearing opinions from residents and local government leaders, we will present an alternative plan before the July 28 by-elections,” said DP Representative Lee Yong-sup, who chairs a committee launched after the June 2 local elections to block Lee’s project.

DP officials said their plan would be tailored to the requirements of each river, taking into account the need for differing levels of water control, water supply and water quality.

They encouraged local government heads to reject pending construction projects along the rivers that require their approval, and suggested those leaders form coalitions with nongovernment organizations and religious groups that oppose the four rivers project.

The ruling Grand National Party, which supports Lee’s plan, said very little construction remaining on the project requires approval by local government heads.

“[The DP’s action] won’t have much impact on the project. Even if some local government heads refuse to approve some of the construction, Korea Water Resources Corporation and regional construction management administration offices under the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs can take the job instead,” said GNP spokesman Cho Hae-jin.

He added that if the local heads oppose the existing project, they should be prepared to forfeit funds they received for the restoration.

By Kim Mi-ju, Baek Il-hyun []

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