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Time to fight a drought

May 31,2017
This year has been exceptionally dry. Only 161.1 millimeters (6.34 inches) of precipitation has fallen so far this year, which is 56 percent of the average amount of 292.7 mm. This month, only 21.9 millimeters of rainfall has fallen, 30 percent below the average. Farmers in Gyeonggyi and Chungcheong provinces are facing troubles due to a critical lack of water for rice crops. Weather authorities predict that rain will be scarce next month too, which could disrupt rice-planting season.

The government announced it was opening six weirs along the four major rivers — four along the Nakdong River and one each on Geum River and Youngsan River. The decision was based on President Moon Jae-in blaming the weirs, which had been built as part of the ambitious four-rivers restoration project of former President Lee Myung-bak, for seasonal algae blooming. The government said it will gradually open dam gates depending on the need for water for farmers. The opening will reduce the water level at Gangjeong-Goryeong reservoir by 1.25 meters and at Gongju by 20 centimeters.

Experts claim the slight opening would hardly help to combat algae growth. They advise that actions should be taken on scientific grounds instead of a kneejerk response to orders from the president.

Some areas heavily depend on the reservoir. Residents in Gongju get their water from the dam on the Geum River. The government should conduct studies in consideration of the damage to residents.

Water is crucial to our lives. We must draw wisdom to fight drought through revisiting the four-rivers restoration project. The Boryeong Dam on the Geum River is one example. South Chungcheong Governor An Hee-jung asked for help to construct a waterway tunnel when the dam ran out of waters two years ago to solve water supply shortage problem for residents. The central and local governments must join forces to come up with wisdom to solve the conflicts of environmental and water supply issues.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 30, Page 34