September 03, 2008 07:52
The government wants to dust off a Seoul-Incheon canal project suspended due to uncertain economic feasibility and resistance from environmental groups.
In a report to the National Assembly on Tuesday, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said the government "will pursue the Seoul-Incheon canal project after thorough examination of its economic feasibility and financial soundness, a comprehensive review by the Korea Development Institute and consultation with other government agencies."
It was the first formal announcement of intent to resume the canal project. The project envisages an 18 km-long and 80 m-wide waterway between Seoul and Incheon. It was launched in 1995 but suspended in 2004 due to controversy over lack of economic feasibility and possible environmental destruction. The ministry wants to announce the project as a civilian investment in 2008 and launch a public tender for contractors in 2009.
Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs Minister Chung Jong-hwan the same day appeared to court controversy when he said President Lee Myung-bak's unpopular cross-country grand canal project "has not been canceled but suspended, so it's possible to restart it if necessary." He added, "I think it's possible to restart it if conditions are appropriate and the people think it necessary. We need to discuss calmly if there are any problems."
Meanwhile, the ministry disclosed a plan to build a high-speed railway in Jeolla provinces. It said it aims to complete construction by 2017 as originally scheduled but will try to finish it earlier. In his campaign in 2007, Lee pledged to complete it by 2012.
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