Sunday, December 06, 2009

"But how could the government possibly conduct a project that hurts water quality?"

Lee Myung Bak made a good point in defending his 4-rivers project.  The quote I am using as a title, though, sounds improbably naive or poorly translated.

From the Chosun Ilbo (I have italicized the 'good point'):
...He pledged to stop answering questions on the issue and "proceed with the projects without listening to further criticism." 
At the ground-breaking ceremony, he declared that no future can be opened with "old ways of thinking" and parties' regional interests, and that the projects will be conducted in a "future-oriented" manner with best efficiency, environment-friendly and state-of-the-art technology combined. "Some people allege that water quality will deteriorate in the course of the projects," he said. "But how could the government possibly conduct a project that hurts water quality?" 
Some civic groups say that the four-rivers projects will hurt water quality, but it makes little sense to leave already polluted rivers alone without even trying to improve them. As the president remarked, would a head of state carry out a project to deliberately pollute the environment? 
I do think there is some merit in the first sentence I quoted.  I would have approved of the late Roh Mu-hyun more if he had been firmer in his decisions, even if I didn't care for those decisions themselves.  Still, some merit is a long way from something I would accept.  I feel this way chiefly because I am not sure when he ever answered questions on the subject.

Still, I do agree that the rivers are already polluted to some degree.  GI Korea has frequently pointed out that Koreans pollute their own rivers, it is only when Americans do it, that it becomes news.

The GI linked to this Korea Times article:
It is shocking news that 29 timber companies were found to have released 271 tons of formalin over the past three years into streams feeding the Han River, the main source of drinking water for Seoul and Kyonggi Province.

Okay, the rivers are polluted.  I can't say whether President Lee's project will help or not, but we clearly aren't dealing with pristine rivers here.

And the rivers aren't surrounded exclusively by forest, pristine or not.  I have written before, describing floods, nearly yearly and the need for some flood control.  This is the one reason I am ambivalent about the project.

Again, we crash into the quote I used as my title.  This might (maybe) be reasonable for a president with no historic ties to heavy industry or who had not recently been thwarted in another river project that could be seen only as a big-money project for heavy industry with no conceivable benefits.  President Lee, once leader of a Hyundae construction group and architect of the Trans Korea canal project, does not get the benefit of the doubt.

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