What pops into your head when you hear "The Netherlands?" Tulips? Guus Hiddink? Windmills?
In the 11th century, the Dutch tried to overcome their special geographical position. As a part of strategic movement to save their land, they used the windmill, which was invented in Persia, and constructed embankments to fight against North Sea. Their long struggle against the North Sea made the Dutch a people who had great skills to cope with nature. Over the years, the Netherlands have increased its land area.
Seeing the success of Netherlands, many countries including Japan recognized the importance of reclamation projects.
In 1986, Japan decided to reclaim the Ariake Sea and kicked off the Isahaya Bay reclamation project, which has a 7 km embankment and 3,500 ha of reclaimed land.
The project was continuing and proceeding apace. As a result, the Isahaya Bay was closed while completing the embankment in 1997. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan invested 2,469 hundred million yen on this project.
This project, suddenly, has come to a halt. About a hundred residents living near the Ariake Sea have filed a lawsuit seeking to halt the reclamation project in November 2002.
After 2 years, the Saga district court of Nagasaki Prefecture ordered that the proceedings of the Isahaya Bay reclamation project should be stopped in August.
The government was opposed to this judgment and they protested against it. As a result, a retrial was held in January 12. But the court did not overturn the first ruling. In addition to dismissing the government's suit, the judge recognized the connection between the environmental disruption of Isahaya Bay and the reclamation.
The judge also concluded that the embankment brought about potential damage to the fishing environment, which is directly connected with the resident's livelihood. Moreover, the court suspended the project to protect the livelihood against the in damage caused by the embankment construction.
The government appealed to the high court against their sentence again. This became a notable news because it was first case in Japan in which the judicature determined to put a break on a government-run project.
From an environmental perspective, the "reclamation project" is recognized as not the savior but the destroyer of the environment. However, there is sharp conflict on this point.
People who support the reclamation insist on a variety of benefits. They can be classified by three positions.
The reason of land reclamation / A definite plan.
1) Securing the land 1. enlarging the country
2. extending excellent farmland
3 extending industrial land
2) Securing water resources 1. providing water for irrigation
2. preventing floods, inundation and salt damage
3) Securing regional development
1. improving overland transportation 2. developing inland waters
However, those against the plans for the land reclamation are raising some question. According to their opinion, 1) it should be done only if the tidal flats reclaimed are invaluable land. Moreover, research indicates that the tidal flats have their own value. By stressing the effectiveness for agriculture supporters are diverting attention from the fishing industry).
After the land reclamation, the supporters insist that they can provide water for irrigation by constructing an artificial lake. But, the fact is that the fresh water in an artificial lake becomes foul because the lower water, which contain much salt, and the upper water don't mix with each other. In conclusion, securing water resources is impossible to provide the good quality water for irrigation.
Securing regional development? Those against reclamation are at loggerheads with those who support it. Many ordinary people prefer a natural shoreline to cement and rocks. They visit not because it is a tourist attraction but because there's a road on the embankment. For that reason, if the government even made a road that adjoins the seashore, its natural environment would become a tourist attraction.
(2) The function of tidal flats.
●Protection from tidal waves and the erosion.
●Accumulation of floating matter.
●Home of fishes, wild animals and rare species
●Treasure house of biological diversity.
●Place of purifying pollutants.
The tideland fulfills a useful ecosystem function. (Consult box 2)
As the importance of tidal flats is recognized, many nations are focusing on protecting them.
The Netherlands, Denmark and Germany announced in 1982 that they agreed to a Joint Declaration on the Protection of the Wadden Sea. Germany designated the Wadden Sea (including its tidal flats) as a national park after deliberating with neighboring countries.
The Netherlands, emphasized the importance of tidal flats to its national survival.
Millingerwaard, located on the east side of Amsterdam, is a typical example of reclaimed land. Millingerwaard was a swamp reclaimed during the past hundreds years. However, repeated flooding and scanty harvests, which are the result of reclamation project, caused its commercial value to decrease. Thereupon, WWF advised the Netherlands to restore the reclaimed land to its former ecosystem. The local government and enterprises purchased this area and turned it over to the WWF. The WWF invested $500,000 over 5 years to restore Millingerwaard as a swamp.
That caused, the pioneer in reclamation to abandon their plan. Moreover, they emphasized the importance of protecting tidal flats.
Korea, civic groups are taking the lead in opposing reclamation on the Korean peninsula. There is a sharp conflict of opinion on this point. However, we have to look into the case of the Isahaya Bay reclamation project, which is a role model of Saemangeun project.
Last February 21, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said that they can't accept the judicature's decision about Saemangeun project and they will appeal the decision to an intermediate court of appeal. The Saemangeun project is at the centre of a legal row.
"Most people are confused over what is good or bad reclamation project. And which way is our way?" said Jung Jin-ah, a undergraduate activist with a civic group concerned with protecting the environment.
Kim Hyung-jong email@example.com
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