Environmental activists say a mega-project to refurbish four rivers in South Korea threatens eco-systems. Photo: Stuart Westmorland
A church-linked environmental centre in South Korea is urging the world’s Christians to pray for the protection of the country’s four major rivers, which they say are threatened by government development plans.
"We … earnestly appeal to our Christian sisters and brothers throughout the world to join our prayer for preventing the destruction of the ecosystems of South Korea and for protecting the integrity of God’s creation," the Eco-Community Movement Centre of the Presbyterian Church of the Republic of Korea, said in a July 23 statement.
A Korean Buddhist monk burned himself to death at the end of May in protest at the government’s water development project, which critics say will devastate the environment and ecosystems in the affected areas.
In a note before his death, the Venerable Munsu asked President Lee Myung-bak’s government to "stop the river project immediately and try its best to serve the poor people, not the rich", a report on the UCANews.com website stated.
The government launched the US$19 billion project in November to refurbish four rivers, the Han, Nakdong, Geum, and Yeongsan. It says the nationwide project is needed to deal with drought and floods caused by climate change, as well as contamination.
"The government has neither asked the opinion of people nor taken the appropriate procedures of technical studies and environmental impact assessments," the Presbyterian church group said in its statement. "Many concerned people from both religious and academic sectors as well as a number of ordinary citizens have been strongly opposing the project."
It said that the work of dredging the rivers and building riverbed sills threatens the underwater ecosystem.
"A river is not simply a container of water but a living space where diverse and precious species are connected with one another and sustain their lives," the group stated. "Destroyed ecosystems are not restored in a day."
The government said on the project’s website that the undertaking is aimed at "creating new jobs and boosting local economics through the restoration of river routes, construction of ecological parks, the creation of tourism belts and the promotion of local festivals."