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Government to address faults in four-river project

The South Korean government said Sunday it would attempt to address leaks and other problems recently revealed with the previous administration’s controversial project to restore the country’s four major rivers.

Last week, an investigative commission under the Prime Minister’s Office found defects such as leaks in six of the 16 dams built on the rivers, and said the project had resulted in a decline in water quality.

“The commission’s report indicated that overall, (the dams) presented no safety hazards, but (the government must) investigate the dams with leaks and come up with plans for improvement as soon as possible,” officials from the Office for Government Policy Coordination said.

In the wake of the findings, Prime Minister Chung Hong-won urged all related ministries to cooperate in coming up with follow-up measures to address the issues raised by the probe.

Possible measures, to be rolled out in January, include inspecting and possibly augmenting the six dams, addressing the environmental effects of the project and finding additional uses for the dams, such as for tourism.

The detailed reports of the probe will be distributed to each ministry this week, officials said.

The controversial 22 trillion won ($20 billion) project ― one of flagship initiatives of former President Lee Myung-bak ― has been suspected by local environmental groups of causing environmental damage. This included last year’s algal bloom, which the government panel confirmed was caused by the project.

The government-led probe itself has sparked controversy as rival parties clashed over whether the parliament should open a probe into the project.

The New Politics Alliance for Democracy said the probe left out some major issues, such as the project’s impact on the country’s economy.

“How much did the Lee administration pat itself on the back for the economic aspects of this project? Yet the commission did not even mention it,” NPAD spokesperson Rep. Park Soo-hyun said in a radio interview. He added that the commission’s report failed to address the allegations of corruption involving the builders, and said the report should not grant “amnesty” to the project.

But the ruling Saenuri Party maintained that the government probe showed no major problems with the four-river project and dismissed the opposition’s comments as “a political offensive.”

On Friday, local environmental groups held a press conference in Seoul to decry the government commission’s report as flawed and insufficient, and joined in the calls for a parliamentary probe.

They said the commission itself was biased as it excluded any civilian experts who took issue with the four-river project, and that time constraints had made it virtually impossible for the panel to uncover all the problems.

By Yoon Min-sik (
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Korea Herald daum