Designing Their Way Out of a Dam Mess


A previous do-gooding design campaign. Photo via Slowalk

From educating people about food miles and food security to encouraging them to use less paper, the Korean group Slowalk puts its graphic-design skills in the service of do-gooder causes. The latest target of their clean-lined advocacy? A government project to dam Korea's four main rivers.According the the blog 10,000 Birds, dam construction in Korea has already helped drive the spoon-billed sandpiper toward extinction by destroying key habitat in the Saemangeum wetlands, and the Four Rivers Project will have much the same effect:

The Four Rivers Project will permanently change four of South Korea's major rivers, involves deep-dredging more than 600km of mostly shallow waterways, the construction of sixteen dams, and the loss of hugely important habitat causing very major and long-term negative impacts on several bird species, on eight BirdLife designated Important Bird Areas, and on at least one Ramsar site.

Alarmed by this prospect, Slowalk created a poster showing the stylized images of 12 animals and plants -- including cranes, fish, and otters -- that the Korea Federation for Environment Movement has said risk extinction if the dam plans for the Han, Nakdong, Geum, and Yeongsan rivers are allowed to proceed. "[These species have] unfamiliar names and look strange, but we should keep them since they are Korea's native precious living things," Slowalk's Jiwon Park wrote. The poster, available in English- and Korean-language versions, can also be downloaded as an iPhone wallpaper. (To save real paper, of course.)


Part of the "Let it Be" poster showing animals and plants threatened by the Four Rivers Project. Image via Slowalk.

Though the Korean peninsula was once called geum-su-gang-san, "a land of embroidered rivers and mountains," industrialization has resulted in the damming or channelizing of almost all of South Korea's rivers, journalist James Card wrote last year for Yale e360, noting that the $18 billion plan would "require building 16 new dams on those rivers, rebuilding 87 old dams, reinforcing 209 miles of riverbanks, and dredging 570 million cubic meters of sediment from 428 river miles. On 14 tributaries there will be five new dams and nine more will be rebuilt, and 151 miles of riverbank will be buttressed with concrete."

Environmentalists say the government has released little information about how the plans would affect the environment and claim it pushed through a hastily prepared environmental impact statement to speed up construction. At least one public employee who spoke out against the plans was suspended from his job, Card reported.

Though the South Korean government abandoned its plans to build a canal network across the country due to public opposition, the Facebook group Stop Korea's Four Rivers Project says the new project is just the old one in disguise: "It is impossible to deny the fact that the point of the project is to build a canal. Already, the regional offices of the Four Rivers Project are calling themselves 'Canal Projects.'"

More about the Korean peninsula:
Rare Glimpse at the Wild Nature Inside Korea's DMZ
North Korea Logging in Protected Forest Discovered With Google, NASA Data
28 South Korean Universities Sign Green MOU
South Korea To Build World's Longest Superconductor Electric Distribution System
Hilarious New Korean Bike Share Is 'Interesting Joyful Attraction'
New Ramsar Sites Added as Korea Hosts Its First Meeting
'Green Korea' Plan For 2030
South Korea Turns On the Piggy Poo

Tags: Animals | Conservation | Dams | Designers | South Korea

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