South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Friday that the government-led Four-River Restoration Project is a vital issue, not a matter of choice.
"The world is paying keen attention to the project," Lee said, citing a report by the United Nations Environment Program which mentioned the project as an example of green growth.
The comment was made amid Lee's visit to Gumi, 260km southeast of Seoul, where an exhibition was held to celebrate the "Saemaul" or "New Village" movement.
Launched by then President Park Chung-hee in late 1960s, the New Village Movement has been noted as the main drive for the country's rapid economic development after the Korean War.
Paying respect to the movement, President Lee said it was an important part of the country's history and helped it develop the reputation and level of prosperity it enjoys today.
"I ask you to lead the movement toward a green way of life that will help cut carbon emissions and save energy," Lee told the audience, linking the movement and the four-river project.
The South Korean government has been pushing for the Four-River Restoration Project, which requires a total of 22 trillion won, or 18.2 billion U.S. dollars, as its main green growth program since late 2008.
According to the government, the project is aimed at securing sufficient water supplies, upgrading water quality and reviving ecosystems, as well as boosting the regional economy.
Amid the government aggressively working on with its agenda, local ecologists and the opposition parties have been protesting against it, worrying it may destroy the ecosystem of the Korean Peninsula and may impinge on the budget to be used for other social welfare purposes.