Court supports river renovation

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Court supports river renovation

The Seoul Administrative Court yesterday ruled against a suit filed by a group of citizens to cease the city’s renovation work on the Han River, which is part of the government’s 22-trillion-won ($19.5 billion) four-river restoration project.

The ruling, the first of pending lawsuits trying to block the four-river scheme, may affect the remaining cases and could boost the government’s hopes to overcome legal challenges to implementing the controversial four-year project.

In the ruling, the court said that despite insufficient preparations, the city’s renovation work was not faulty as claimed by the plaintiffs. The lawsuit was filed by 6,129 people against the land minister and the head of Seoul Regional Construction and Management Administration.

The project was based on a “review of the opinions of residents” and “reflected the results of an environmental impact assessment ... on the quality of air and water that came up with measures to reduce pollution.”

The ruling enables the Seoul Regional Construction and Management Administration to continue its work on the Han River, including reinforcing embankments, creating reservoirs and constructing bike lanes.

The ruling came after a group comprised of opposition party members and non-government organizations filed administrative suits to block the development of the four rivers. They also submitted a request for each of the local governments having jurisdiction over the four rivers to halt the project until the courts complete the lawsuit process. The lawsuits were filed in local administrative courts in Seoul, Busan, Daejeon and Jeonju.

The Busan Administrative Court is scheduled to make a ruling on the lawsuit to revoke the project on the Nakdong River next Friday. Requests to suspend the projects on the Han River and the Yeongsan River until the lawsuit process was completed were recently rejected by the courts.

The four-river project, aimed at refurbishing the country’s four major rivers, including the Han, Nakdong, Yeongsan and Geum Rivers, have been conducted since last year by regional governments.

The opposition parties and some civic groups have tried to block the project or cut its budget, saying the plans are not well-designed and carry a high risk of environmental degradation.

The major opposition Democratic Party plans to stage a rally against the four-river restoration project at Seoul Plaza on Sunday. The party also plans to start a signature-collection campaign to press the government.

By Moon Gwang-lip []
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