[EDITORIALS]Lessons in the Heavy Rainfall

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[EDITORIALS]Lessons in the Heavy Rainfall

The casualties from the torrential rains that swept the country nationwide over the weekend are adding up. About 50 people have either died or are missing and 14,000 or so households have been inundated. In the capital city of Seoul, between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m., rain poured 96 millimeters an hour, to make that the highest hourly rainfall in 37 years. Almost 300 millimeters of rain fell, flooding certain sections of subway lines 1, 2 and 7 for the first time in history. Fortunately, because it happened on a non-working day, there were no major traffic jams. The rain is not over. By Monday, the Korea Meteorological Administration forecasts 60 millimeters more rain in the southern region of Kyonggi province, and 120 millimeters in the southern regions. More casualties are a possibility. Only a few weeks ago, the country was in turmoil because of a drought, and now we're filled with water.

Of course, there were many irresistible forces this time as rain poured in record amounts in such a short span of time that many of the casualties could not be prevented. However, some of the most basic national areas, such as transportation and telecommunications were paralyzed, manifesting all the flaws in the country's contingency plans against flooding. A thorough contingency plan must be devised, because even if there is a natural calamity, if well-prepared in advance, the casualties can be prevented or minimized. In that sense, if preparations against the rainy season had been made more thoroughly, by piling up sand-bags or installing shutters in areas that are routinely flooded to block water infiltration at subway entrances, then we could have stopped subway lines from being inundated. Also, many problems in the water removal system in the lower regions of Seoul developed. In many of those regions, even the pumps to remove rainwater were immersed in water. It is dumbfounding that most of those were useless because of lack of capacity. Presently, rainwater pumps are installed in 91 places, mostly in the lower regions of the city. The metropolitan government plans to construct 17 more in the next five years. However, the pumps cannot be the only solution to flooding. If one were to look at just the region surrounding Jungrangcheon, the government has presented flood prevention measures every year, but casualties from inundation are ocurring again and again without fail.

To reduce the casualties from droughts or floods, more long-term measures must be devised. Only a short time ago, farmers had to scurry because of a drought and a campaign to send water pumps was being waged. When are we going to stop the annual rite of worrying about too little or too much water? All of this worry is due to Korea's meteorological and topographical characteristics. Two-thirds of our annual rainfall is concentrated in the summer and 76 percent of the rainfall flows into rivers and the sea because the country is very mountainous. Further, a water shortage is already forecast in five years. Already, many countries worldwide are suffering from a water shortage and some are even going to war against one another for water. Water management is that directly linked to national security.

Therefore, the government should devise strong water management policies, nationally and locally. The government should not pander to residents' protests, but rather the government should construct more multi-purpose or small-scale dams to contain water during the rainy season. Further, instead of blaming the rain on the topography, more waterways should be constructed.

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