2 provinces pushed on four-rivers intentions

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2 provinces pushed on four-rivers intentions

The Blue House stepped up its pressure on liberal governors in South Gyeongsang and South Chungcheong yesterday to make up their minds on the four-rivers restoration projects in the regions.

“South Gyeongsang and South Chungcheong have not made their positions clear,” said a senior Blue House official. “Unless they make up their minds before the end of this year, the central government may take over the construction in the region.”

The government launched the 22 trillion won ($19.7 billion) project last November to clean and refurbish four rivers - the Han, Nakdong, Geum and Yeongsan - in a bid to prevent floods and attract tourists. Critics say the plan will devastate the environment and ecosystem.

Of the 170 construction sites along the four rivers, the central government was in charge of large-scale works such as building diversion dams. Twelve provincial and city governments were in charge of construction at 54 sites. South Gyeongsang is in charge of 13 of the 54 sites, while four are located in South Chungcheong.

The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs sent letters to the two provinces in July after South Gyeongsang Governor Kim Du-kwan and South Chungcheong Governor An Hee-jung voiced opposition to the projects.

“They should make public their stances at least by the end of this year in order to move forward the construction schedule as planned,” said the Blue House official. “The projects were commissioned to the regional construction companies in order to revive the local economies. We, however, can retrieve the projects from them.”

Both provinces said yesterday that they will announce their positions by the end of the month. South Chungcheong Governor An said in a press conference yesterday that his biggest problem is a fiscal crisis. He said the province needs to use its budget to attract companies, reform the agricultural sector and deal with an aging society with a low birthrate.

“And yet, the four-rivers project has become a budget black hole,” An said.

By Ser Myo-ja, Hwang Sun-yoon [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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