Opposition governor freezes four rivers project

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Opposition governor freezes four rivers project

South Gyeongsang Governor Kim Du-kwan, who ran for office promising to block President Lee Myung-bak’s signature four rivers restoration project, followed through on his pledge yesterday by halting a construction project, at least temporarily.

“In a policy briefing on Tuesday, Governor Kim told officials to put a hold on the project for the time being as political circles will decide their position on the four rivers project after the July 28 by-election and when 16 metropolitan city mayors and provincial governors meet at the Blue House on July 23,” said a senior official at the provincial government.

“Kim said because the June 2 local elections clearly showed the public’s negative view of the project, political circles should first suggest an alternative to revise it,” the official said. “When he meets the prime minister and president later, Kim said he will express his position on the issue.”

Under the four rivers restoration project, the South Gyeongsang government was supposed to spend 12.7 billion won ($10.5 million) to build 49.9 kilometers (31 miles) of bicycle paths, four bridges and two river environment monitoring facilities in an area between the Nam and Nakdong rivers. Kim has halted those plans for now.

The South Gyeongsang Provincial Government was supposed to choose a construction company by end of this month, but that has been postponed.

The province already broke ground on 12 other parts of the four rivers restoration project. They are ongoing, but since taking office July 1, Kim has frozen 510 million won allotted for the rivers projects in his province.

A source in the South Gyeongsang government told the JoongAng Ilbo that an official was scolded by the governor after he requested Kim approve the budget.

The provincial government has started removing street banners promoting the project.

The governor also ordered a study on whether the projects are good or bad for the South Gyeongsang region in terms of ecology protection, flood prevention and other economic benefits.

“It will take a while for the South Gyeongsang government to come up with counter-proposals as it doesn’t have its own in-depth analysis or research on the four rivers restoration project,” said Kang Seok-kyu, a chief of the national projects division of the provincial government.

By Kim Mi-ju, Hwang Sun-yoon [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]
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