It’s Not Too Late to Revive Saemangeum
By Park Si-soo
CHANGWON ㅡ The Saemangeum reclamation project, completed in coastal South Jeolla Province in 2006, has drawn a barrage of criticism from environmental activists at home and abroad for disrupting the local ecosystem.
Environmental experts said the reclamation deprived numerous shorebirds, mollusks and fish of their shelters.
The Australasian Wader Studies Group said in its latest report that it had observed 137,000 fewer shorebirds and reductions in the presence of 19 other species between 2006 and 2008.
Ju Yong-ki, an environmental researcher at Chonbuk National University, claimed it's still ``not too late'' to revive Saemangeum.
``Despite the destruction, Saemangeum still remains an internationally important wetland as a habitat for numerous birds, including endangered species,'' Ju said at a session on the sidelines of the Ramsar Convention.
According to his report, more than 53,000 migratory birds still make Saemangeum and adjacent wetlands as their wintering ground.
``More than 1 percent of the total population of endangered species around the world are presumed to spend their winter at Saemangeum,'' he said.
He introduced a set of strategies on how to make the reclaimed land eco-friendly.
``To prevent further damage, Saemangeum should be placed on the Ramsar List of Wetlands,'' he claimed. Saemangeum meets three criteria of the nine needed for designation as a Ramsar-listed wetland, the researcher said, citing reports from the National Institute of Environmental Research and the National Institute of Biological Resources.
``Once designated, Saemangeum will be able to receive international support to suspend further development plans there. In addition, a series of projects aiming to turn the spot into eco-friendly will gain momentum,'' he said.
He blamed the Korean government for ignoring an international treaty for the protection of shorebirds, which it joined in 1996 along with China and Australia. ``But it has pushed ahead with a series of large-scale reclamation projects for development, posing a great threat to numerous creatures' survival,'' Ju said.
Started in 1991, the Saemangeum project has resulted in a 33-kilometer-long levee creating 40,100 hectares of land and 28,300 hectares of farmland.