Nonsensical demolishing of weirs
A presidential committee, which advised the dismantlement of some of the weirs around Geum River and Yeongsan River, seriously raises questions on the grounds as they mostly serve to meet President Moon Jae-in’s campaign promise to re-examine the four-river project led by former President Lee Myung-bak.
It is wrong to decide on a major state infrastructure policy based on political motivation rather than scientific grounds. It cannot be any different from the Ministry of Energy officials rushing to delete hundreds of files on nuclear reactors ahead of an inspection on the government’s hurried shutdown of the Wolsong-1 nuclear reactor.
The committee advised a complete removal of two weirs in Geum River and Yeongsan River and a partial dismantlement of another one in Geum River, while ordering the permanent opening of two weirs in Geum River and Yeonsang River.
The partial dismantlement and permanent opening would more or less be destabilizing the damming purpose of storing farming waters in case of a drought and prevent flooding. The grounds for the decisions are hardly persuasive.
The committee said that since the opening of the five weirs in the two rivers from 2017 and 2020, some extinct species have been discovered.
But the committee did not specify how much water quality has improved since the opening. It argued the summer algal blooming eased significantly in 2019-2020. But experts attribute the phenomenon more to heavy rain during the two summers instead of the opening of the weirs. Residents around the areas have been protesting against the closures in fear of lacking water for farming.
Tax money waste could be heavy. The two weirs set for removal cost 128.7 billion won ($116.9 million) and 154 billion won each to build. The weir for partial dismantlement costs 213.6 billion won. The cost of destroying three weirs is 81.6 billion won. It would be a colossal waste for the country and residents. A lawmaker in Gonju slammed the decision as “bizarre” and residents in Chungcheong protested, asking why their rivers were singled out while leaving Nakdong River in Gyeongsang province and the Han River in the capital region untouched.
The decision falls in line with the president’s campaign promise to remove the four weirs and keep them open permanently. The promise was to erase the legacy of former president Lee. If a national infrastructure is found to have flaws, they should be fixed. Why the facilities that had cost a whopping 500 billion won should be removed after less than 10 years with additional tax money cannot be convincing.