The government on Monday announced what it says is a final master plan to improve the country's four major waterways by 2012, with the budget now a cool W22 trillion (US$1=W1,255).
It was the latest hike in a creeping expansion of the mega project. Six months ago, the government ostensibly abandoned President Lee Myung-bak's campaign pledge to build a cross-Korea canal after public protests and decided on a smaller river-dredging scheme, but the scope in the master plan has grown from the Han, Nakdong, Geum and Yeongsan rivers to encompass the Seomjin River and 13 smaller rivers as well.
Reports earlier this month put the cost at W18 trillion. Compared to December, when the master plan was drafted for an estimated budget of W13.88 trillion, the total cost has risen more than 60 percent.
The plan was announced by the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs and the Ministry of Environment. It suggests the main reason for the ballooning cost is construction of dams and increased dredging. The government says the added construction work is to make room for a greater volume of water to deal with droughts, but critics of the mega project say the construction of dams is simply an excuse to push ahead with the president's grand canal plan under another name.
The head of the project denied this, saying the dams and dredging are to prepare for a shortage of 1 billion cubic m of water by 2016 as well as flooding.