New Expo-linked Road Proposal across the Nakdong Estuary, Busan

Figure 1. Busan. Inset map is from (and copyright of) BBS News; RED line marks proposed site of new Gadeok Do Airport; BLUE dots follow proposed 2nd Coastal Ring Road outline given in BBS map (across the Nakdong Estuary, including it appears through part of the Nakdong Estuary Wetland Protected Area; through Dadapo, close to Taejongdae and close to the SK apartments at Igidae, before going offshore from Gwangali and Haeundae). This proposed route, unless all tunnel, would therefore substantially alter views of the sea for all South and East Busan; and impact some beautiful and biodiverse habitats. It would also likely be enormously expensive, The dotted YELLOW line is what we suspect is more likely to be the actual proposed route, across the islands in the Nakdong Estuary; and soon joining with recently improved road systems. This would be much cheaper to build, but would cause severe negative environmental impacts on the biodiversity of the Nakdong Estuary. Either way, this road will apparently require redrawing of the boundaries of the Nakdong Estuary Wetland Protected Area.

According to BBS News (June 29th 2022), “The 2nd coastal ring road connecting Gadeok-do and Gijang-gun will be constructed.

The city of Busan today confirmed and announced the ‘Busan City Road Construction and Management Plan’, which is the city’s top road plan.

According to the plan…a second coastal ring road will be constructed from Gadeok Island through Saha-gu, Yeongdo-gu, Nam-gu and Haeundae to Gijang-gun.” (Kim Sangjin, BBS News, June 29th 2022).

This road proposal is part of several major development plans to support Busan City’s bid to host the 2030 World Expo. The formal decision on whether or not Busan City will be awarded this Expo will be made in 2023 (other potential host cities include e.g., Moscow and Rome). New Expo-linked development proposals already include port expansion, several new bridges and most importantly the proposed new international airport at Gadeok Do, on the western flank of the Ramsar-defined internationally important Nakdong Estuary.

The proposed Gadeok Do airport will already be one of the most ambitious engineering projects ever undertaken in the country (as it requires building deep into the sea). Together with KFEM, Birds Korea already expressed our concerns about possible bird strike and impacts on migratory raptors. We also expressed our concerns about the proximity of the proposed airport to the estuary; and our suspicions that new infrastructure across the estuary will be proposed, to reduce congestion and driving time, and to provide visitors to the Expo with extraordinary views of the city.

Much degraded over the past few decades, much of the Nakdong Estuary is a national Wetland Protected Area: the strictest form of national protection. Unless changes have been made to these boundaries already, the proposed new road as shown in the map provided by BBS News would cut through this Wetland Protected Area (see Figure 1 and Figure 2 below).

Figure 2. Signboard showing boundaries of the Nakdong River Estuary Wetland Protected Area (as of 2013) in red. Note that the proposed new road will cut through the southeastern part of this Wetland Protected Area.

Detailed plans have not yet been made public, and it seems likely that the proposed road plan (marked in blue in Figure 1) will be substantially modified to save costs and to reduce opposition from people who will be affected by the construction.

It seems likely to us that rather than build in deep water used by shipping and fishers, developers will soon propose a cheaper version. This would entail construction across the outer islands in the estuary, and would link to recently improved roads (one possible version of this is shown in yellow dots in Figure 1).

Either way, it seems highly likely that the proposed new road will impact outer islands in the Nakdong Estuary presently used by e.g., nesting nationally Vulnerable Little Tern Sternula albifrons 쇠제비갈매기 and globally Vulnerable Styan’s Grasshopper Warblers Helopsaltes pleskei 섬개개비, wintering globally Vulnerable Steller’s Sea Eagle Haliaeetus pelagicus 참수리 and Relict Gull Ichthyaetus relictus 고대갈매기 and near-annual staging globally Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpipers Calidris pygmaea 넓적부리도요 (before barrage construction, the Nakdong Estuary was even the most important known site for this latter species globally).

Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper Calidris pygmaea 넓적부리도요, Nakdong Estuary
Shorebird flock in the Nakdong Estuary, looking east toward Hadan and Dadapo, close to where the proposed new road will come on land.
Outer Nakdong Estuary, looking west from Saha Gu. Red line marks the proposed location of the new Gadeok Do airport; blue line indicates approximate route of proposed new road according to the map in BBS News on June 29th 2022.

We hope that full details of the proposed 2nd coastal ring road will be made public, and that an appropriate environmental impact assessment will be conducted, in accordance with national laws and international commitments held by the ROK.

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