A twenty mile long sea dike in the Yellow Sea will help transform wetlands into an industrial zone, creating a northeast Asian economic center. A theme park, golf course, and factories will soon change the face of North Joella, a province that currently consists largely of small farms.
A landmass seven times the size of Manhattan, totaling 155 square miles will be reclaimed in a plan many consider to be one of the country’s biggest ecological blunder. The Saemangeum estuarine was finally dammed in April, 2006, after many years of conflict.
Wetlands such as Saemangeum help mitigate flooding and prevent soil erosion, of vital importance to area residents. This area was also of particular importance to migratory birds flying from Alaska and Russia to Australia and New Zealand. A study published last month shows a decline of 137,000 shorebirds in Saemangeum from 2006 to 2008.
“This project is not about protecting the environment,” said Park Hyoung Bae, an official with the Saemangeum development authority. “It is about economic development. And we will do that in an environmentally sound way.”
“Currently, this project has an environmentally friendly face, but just planting trees on some part of the sea wall isn’t truly about going green,” said Yoon Sang-hoon of the conservation group Green Korea.
This situation is a typical example of conflict between protecting the environment and boosting the economy. Although TriplePundit is full of win-win examples of satisfying both interests, no solution has been found thus far in this case.