Restoration project aims to save Haeundae Beach

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Restoration project aims to save Haeundae Beach

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Left: Haeundae Beach in Busan had a shore width of 70 meters (229 feet) in the 1970s. Right: The beach narrowed to 38 meters last year. Erosion accelerated after development, though experts have mainly pointed to the change in the ocean’s current as the primary reason for the loss of sand. The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and the Haeundae District Office in Busan started the Haeundae Beach restoration project in the hope of returning the coast to its original glory. By Song Bong-geun

BUSAN - A large-scale restoration project to save Haeundae Beach in Busan kicked into full force this year with the joint support of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, according to the Haeundae District Office.

The project, which was announced in November and is slated to last at least three years, is expected to have a budget of about 43.6 billion won ($40.8 million).

Haeundae, known by its nickname Silver Sand, is a favorite beach and summer vacation destination located along the Busan coastline. It is particularly popular among tourists for its natural scenery.

However, the beach has been threatened by noticeable coastal erosion since the 1980s, when the construction of ports, harbor facilities and tourist accommodations accelerated. The beach further narrowed due to the sweeping of the ocean’s current.

By the 1990s, the Haeundae District Office took steps to solve the problem. From then until last year, they have poured approximately 53,000 square meters (13 acres) of sand in total to boost the shoreline.

But over the past several years, the coast, which was once 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles) in length and 70 meters wide, has significantly diminished, and was just 38 meters wide as of last year.

As the situation worsened, officials decided to hire a professional assessment team to determine specific reasons for the loss in order to establish appropriate countermeasures.

After three years of research, engineers concluded that the change in the current’s direction each year - tides move from west to east in the summer, and then change direction in the winter - played a part in the erosion, brushing the sand in a two-season cycle along different areas of the coast.

But the Marine City residential complex, which was built on filled-in land reclaimed from the sea, and the construction of skyscrapers has also led to changes in the flow of the current, with the development reducing the sea’s natural responses to climate changes, according to the district.

When Marine City was filled in to make way for the apartments, it blocked the current from passing through what used to be a bay, affecting its trajectory, while the skyscrapers impacted coastal wind patterns.

The erosion accelerated after the development, though experts have mainly pointed to the change in the ocean’s current as the primary reason for the loss of sand.

“Since this is the first internal attempt to restore the sandy beach, the project will consider in detail whether the construction influences other environments or ecosystems,” said Choi Myeong-ryong, the head official of the Busan harbor construction division at the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.

When the government decided to dedicate 43.6 billion won to the project last year, 187,000 square meters of sand was poured into Haeundae Beach in January and February to observe where the sand swept out and where it was piling up under the sea.

Observations will continue until next year to determine current’s patterns in detail. Once construction is completed, more sand from the Yellow Sea will be added to widen the beach as needed. After the project’s estimated completion in 2017, Haeundae Beach is expected to regain its old nickname, with its coastline filled in to original levels.

If the beach project succeeds, the government is expecting to use that same blueprint to modify the artificial sandy beach in the currently closed Oceano Tourism Complex, where all its sand swept out just one year after completion.

BY KIM SANG-JIN [enational@joongang.co.kr]


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