The results of an environmental impact study that Garolim Tidal Power Plant Co., Ltd submitted will come out soon, but it is already causing controversy.
Garolim Tidal Power resubmitted its environmental impact study in January, two years after its previous submission was rejected. The company also submitted additional documents in August. The Ministry of Environment rejected the first submission with the comment, “Trend research on major evaluation standards including the marine environment, prediction of future impact, and analysis of economic feasibility are insufficient.”
Invested by POSCO, Daewoo E&C, Lotte E&C
Garolim Tidal Power was created out of joint investments from Korea Western Power, POSCO, Daewoo E&C, and Lotte E&C. The Garolim Tidal Power Plant's purpose is to produce electricity from a dam which is to be created in 2km of ocean between Iwon-myeon, Taean-gun, and Daesan-eup, Seosan-si, Chungcheongnam-do. Fisheries ranging over 1,743 hectacres have to be closed and a shoreline four times greater than Yeouido's total area will be destroyed. But there is hope – construction costs have increased from 1.22 trillion won (US$1.17 billion) in 2007 to 1.8 trillion won (US$1.7 billion), calling the feasibility of the project into question.
Regarding the environmental impact study resubmitted in January, the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, Chungcheongnam-do, National Institute of Environment Research, and Korea Environment Institute all denied the project's validity and requested supplemental materials by saying that the studies on environmental consequences are still not thorough enough. The main reasons for such negative opinions were the risks of marine pollution including red tides due to the decreased seawater exchange rate, inevitable impairment of nature at the entrance of Garolim Bay, contraction of the mud flats, damage to the habitat of endangered spotted seals, insufficient analysis of the effect on local residents’ economic activities, and the end of fishing using the mud flat.
The area surrounding Garolim Bay has been noted as “the best-preserved mud flat terrain in the West Coast of Korea” by the Ministry of Environment in 2002, and “the best preserved mud flat among all foreshore areas in Korea” by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries in 2005 and 2007.
Friends of the Earth Korea explained, “The mud flat of the West Coast of Korea, known as one of the five major mud flats, is being seriously damaged from too much reclamation. For the last 20 years, it shrank by 714.1 km2, or 22.3 percent, because of the development of industrial complexes and houses. There is a desperate need to preserve the foreshore.”
Convention on Biological Diversity Hosted by Korea in October
The World Council for Renewable Energy defines renewable energy as “sustainable, giving no harm from additional effects, and having no negative impact on the regional community as well as vitality and rights of the natural system.”
With Lance in France, Severn in the U.K. and Annapolis in Canada, all of which promoted tidal power plants in the 1960s, they assessed that such power generating methods are not sustainable due to low economics and the impairment of biological diversity.
In Korea, the world’s largest tidal power plant, Siwha Tidal Power Plant, is already being operated. This plant, with an installed capacity of 254MW, is capable of producing 552 million kWh per year, which can be consumed by a 500,000 population city.
Siwha Tidal Power Plant, which was completed in 1994, rapidly impaired the water quality of Lake Sihwa. However, there was no strong opposition, as the power plant itself could improve the water quality and generate electricity by passing the water into and out of the breakwater using the tides.
In the meantime, Korea is a hosting and chair country of the Meeting of the Conference the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to be held in October.