While some scoff at the feasibility of such a feat — noting infamous environmental failures like Japan’s Isahaya Bay — the Saemangeum land reclamation project is set to convert 155 square-miles of tidal wetlands into ocean-front property.
With a price tag of almost $3 billion, Park Hyoungbae, an official with the Saemangeum development authority, told Reuters, “This project is not about protecting the environment. It is about economic development. And we will do that in an environmentally sound way.”
Yoon Sang-hoon of the conservation group Green Korea says, “The government is calling this environmentally friendly, but just planting a few trees that have since died does not make it a green project.”
Conservationists critique the project, worrying about the fates of the thousands of migratory bird species that use the dyke as their one re-fueling point on their way south from Alaska and Russia to Australia and New Zealand.
As the region is primarily rural, the breadbasket of South Korea, farmers voice hope for prosperity but also concern that they will be displaced in the potential surge of growth.
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