Governor rejects rivers project, angering locals

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Governor rejects rivers project, angering locals

South Chungcheong Governor Ahn Hee-jung said yesterday that he was against the four-rivers restoration project and would halt on-going construction for building banks near the Geum River, ratcheting up tension with the central government but also with his local counties and cities.

At a press conference held at the South Chungcheong Provincial Office, Ahn said, “All construction near Gongju and Buyeo [County] areas will be suspended from now on.”

But Ahn said he will continue construction near Yeongi County, where 70 percent of a bank has already been built.

“We will decide whether we resume the construction near Gongju and Buyeo after monitoring the result from the Yeongi’s bank,” Ahn said.

Ahn said the budget for the project should be partly used to improve current banks at the mouth of the Geum River.

“The real issue in improving the Geum River is to improve current banks at the river’s mouth [not building new banks],” Ahn said.

Rejecting the governor’s stand, cities and counties in the province said they want the project because of the benefits it would bring, including large construction contracts.

“We cannot agree to Ahn’s objection to the project,” said Rhi Ryong-woo, the head of Buyeo County. “If the restoration construction is completed, Buyeo will be transformed into a famous tourism spot.”

According to Rhi, local organizations in Buyeo County sent an appeal to the Blue House with 12,000 local signatures.

While South Chungcheong was embroiled in the dispute between the governor and local governments, North Chungcheong said it would allow the rivers project to proceed.

Lee Si-jong, the governor of North Chungcheong, said Thursday, “We will execute the project but revise most of the original plan [that the central government made].”

Lee, who is a lawmaker for the Democratic Party, which opposes the project, was criticized by opposition parties for being too pro-government.

“Governor Lee did not keep the election pledge made during his election campaign to oppose the four-rivers restoration project,” said the Democratic Labor Party, an opposition party.

Democratic Party floor leader Park Jie-won said Wednesday that the party would form a special committee to oppose the project.

“The committee will seek cooperation from civic organizations and religious groups,” Park said.

South Gyeongsang Governor Kim Doo-kwan announced his objection to the project Wednesday.

But 18 cities and counties in South Gyeongsang did not agree with the governor’s decision, as in South Chungcheong.

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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