‘Green New Deal’ is keyword for Korea

This is the third in a series of articles compiled by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on the government’s project to restore and improve four major rivers — the Han, Nakdong, Geum, and Yeongsan Rivers — across the country.
Once the four river project is finished by 2011, it will be possible for the country to avoid sustaining severe flood or drought damage. The ecosystems in and around the rivers will be restored to their original state to suit the surrounding nature. Boosting the economy and creating jobs through the project will serve as the prime mover for the revitalization of the Korean economy. Refurbished river areas will turn into local tourist attractions, contributing to improving the quality of life for local residents and galvanizing the local economies.

‘No more worries about flood or drought’
In 2006, about 50,000 people were displaced after flood and property damage amounted to 4 trillion won (US$1=W1,360). When the 536 kilometers of riverbank are bolstered and five small and medium-sized dams or flood control facilities are completed through this project, it will be possible to contain flooding and protect people’s lives and property. If the country succeeds in controlling flooding, it can each year save 2.7 trillion won, which would have otherwise been spent on coping with flood damage, and 4.2 trillion won, which would have been used to restore property damage.
Korea has been designated by the UN as a country facing imminent water shortage. We can supply water properly when drought hits, if we dredge the riverbeds and store water in catchment reservoirs. It will be also possible to store 220 million cubic meters of more water annually, if we improve the existing 96 farming reservoirs. If water flow is managed stably, it will be greatly conducive to improving the overall water quality of the rivers.

‘Revival of rivers and environment’
As they have been left neglected for decades, Korea’s rivers have seriously elevated riverbeds, and sediment and pollutants are decaying under the water. The Taehwa River in Ulsan, which once had been a river of death, was revived after polluted sediment was removed.
In particular, river margins will turn into eco-friendly wetlands. Once the four river project is accomplished, 640 hectares of wetland, twice the size of the land area of Yeouido island in central Seoul and 1,500 hectares of water-friendly areas, 50 times the size of Yeouido, will be created. These wetlands will reduce the amount of surface carbon by about 40 percent, thereby contributing to preventing global warming and reviving the rivers as they have water-purifying functions. In addition, various kinds of indigenous trees will be planted in nearby areas.
Solar power and small hydroelectric power plants will also be built in these locations. The green-belt areas near the four major rivers and new renewable energies generated there will help reduce 100,000 tons of carbon emissions every year. If this is converted into the value of carbon emissions trading rights, it will amount to 2.6 billion won per year.
Korea ranks top in the world in terms of the rate of increase in carbon emissions. In a post-Kyoto system that will kick off in 2013, the country will highly likely be included on a list of countries that will be obliged to reduce greenhouse gases. The four river project is a way to revive the rivers and environment, as well as part of a “low carbon, green growth” vision to prepare for a new global environment system.

‘Economy to be revived’
To overcome the economic crisis, countries around the world are implementing massive public investment projects. Major countries are also focusing on environment and energy to boost their economies on a massive scale. They are implementing “green new deals” that aim to fulfill medium and long-term tasks necessitated by global warming and to galvanize their economies in the short term. The combined total amount of investments in the environment and energy sectors by world countries reaches 420 trillion won in the Korean currency, including government subsidies,.
The four river project is a Korean-version “Green New Deal.” A total of 14 trillion won will be injected into this project by 2011, creating 190,000 new jobs. It will drive production amounting to 22 trillion won. The economic “virtuous cycle,” which will be created, will save the Korean economy.

‘Local economies to be rejuvenated’

When the four river project is completed, eco-friendly wetlands, walking paths and sports fields will be built. If sufficient water is stored in catchment reservoirs, it will be possible to enjoy water sports, such as yachting, windsurfing, canoeing, and kayaking. It will be also possible to hold cultural events or festivals at waterfronts, including on ferry piers.
If resort and tourist facilities are built along the rivers, and pleasure boats are plying the waters, the nearby regions will be turned into new tourist attractions and local economies will be greatly rejuvenated.
It will not be long before you can make a cross-country tour by bicycle on bike paths, whose total distance will be three times the length of Seoul-Busan Expressway.
If the environment changes, people will also change. If the four major rivers and surrounding regions change, the visitors there will have renewed mindsets and lifestyles. The quality of life for local residents will improve and they will live a more abundant life thanks to the economic effects arising from the project.

Written by Chung Myung-je (Chief Staff Writer / Korea.net)

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