Despite a heavy downpour of rain, and with their fate still resting on a court ruling November 9th, it was mostly smiles and celebration in South Korea’s Dumulmeori farmland this weekend as hundreds came to watch 25 bands play on 3 stages. The Dumulmeori Music Festival is part of a bid to create awareness for a new way of thinking about farming and riverside ecology in the midst of a controversial river construction project.
The Dumulmeori farmers are in a perilous place, representing what is essentially the last piece of land holding up completion of the $19 Billion Four Rivers Project.
Although South Korea’s Minister of Environment, Yoo Young-sook, says the project will “secure abundant, clean water… and pass on a beautiful ecology and a future of sustainable development to the next generation,” you’d be hard pressed to match those words to anything in the government’s plan at Dumulmeori.
The organic farmers at Dumulmeori say it’s all lip-service, claiming that the environment — at least around their piece of the river — does not suffer from flooding and is actually cleaner than the proposed government standard.
The interesting part of this story — and the part which may help farmers reach an accord with the government — is that the piece of land at Dumulmeori is not slated for dams, weirs, habitat-reclamation, or other water-control type development.
Instead, Dumulmeori is targeted for an amusement park, government-managed parkland, and bicycle paths; not exactly the type of development that would be highlighted as part of a “green vision” for the South Korean mega-project.
Working with architects, urban and regional planners, farmers, and community members, the Dumulmeori group have come up with an interesting alternative solution that blends the current organic farmland with educational public farming facilities and bicycle/walking paths.
The plan that the farmers bring to the table is not so much a compromise, as it is an innovative use of one of South Korea’s few remaining riverside treasures. It’s the kind of plan other countries could use as a rubric.
Standing between Dumulmeori’s natural riparian corridor and its lush green farmland, the view of the river and surrounding land is spectacular. One could imagine groups of International eco-tourists, and local school children arriving at Dumulmeori to learn about natural river ecology and organic farming methods, all while taking in the famous vistas at this point of confluence where the Han River begins.
The farmers feel that their forward-thinking 100+ page plan is a good bit more appropriate than the current development plan of a ferris wheel and roller coaster, and my feeling is that you’d have a hard time finding anyone who disagrees with their sentiment.
For the sake of the beautiful slice of land that is Dumulmeori, hopefully the South Korean Courts, along with President Lee Myung-bak, agree, too.
For More on Four Rivers and Dumulmeori Farm:
The Four Rivers Project and the Future (Korea Herald Article)
Restoration or Devastation (Science Times Article)
South Korea’s Four Rivers Project (sociecity)
Court Backs Farmers over River Scheme (UCA News)
Dumulmeori Organic Farm Committee