[REPORTER'S DIARY]A Model of Flood Prevention

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[REPORTER'S DIARY]A Model of Flood Prevention

The area around the Pocheon River in Pocheon-gun, Kyonggi province, was quiet and clean at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Although 324 millimeters of rain had pounded the region in a downpour that started in the morning and lasted until 4 p.m. the same day, the area appeared as if it had experienced only a brief shower. The houses and roads adjacent to the river's embankments were free from damage, and residents were calm.

In 1999, 707 millimeters of rain poured over the area in five days from July 31 to Aug. 4, and 358 houses were flooded as the river leapt its banks.

During the autumn of that year, the Pocheon-gun office reinforced the embankments and dredged the river bed, spending 7.5 billion won ($5.7 million) of money from the government and the provincial coffers. From Aug. 25 to Sep. 1 last year, 413.5 millimeters of rain fell over eight days. Yet only 43 houses were flooded, thanks to such preparations.

This year, Pocheon-gun built stone walls to reinforce 22 brittle embankments at small tributaries or streams near the Pocheon River, along a distance totaling 2.2 kilometers. The gun office spent 530 million won from the disaster relief funds it had saved up over two years.

After a heavy rain warning was given at 10 p.m. on Saturday, all 600 public servants of the gun office and residents patrolled vulnerable areas to prevent flood damage.

Through the early morning Sunday, an average of 200 millimeters of rain washed out the capital region, resulting in 50 dead or missing persons. In the downpour, 21,000 houses were flooded.

But in Pocheon-gun, which once suffered perennial flooding, only 10 houses suffered slight flood damage. Through its program of prevention, Pocheon-gun has reduced flood damage to a level quite superior to other areas of the capital city region that suffered lost of life and heavy property damage last weekend.

"I felt the pressing need to amass funds for prevention because I felt we could no longer blame the sky for the damage. So, I tried to raise as much as possible through the central government and the gun office," Lee Jin-ho, the chief administrator of the Pocheon-gun, said.

"We collected the opinions of residents living in areas prone to flood damage and prepared flood control measures especially tailored for the conditions in each area. Such preventive measures seem to have been effective," Mr. Lee added.

The northern areas of Kyonggi province, including Pocheon, Munsan, Dongducheon and Yeoncheon, were often associated with heavy flood damage. But they have avoided catastrophe from last year because they took flood prevention measures that were clearly effective.

The recent heavy rains highlighted the vulnerability of the capital region to flooding, causing many citizens to feel disappointment and even rage at the central government and local authorities. These governments should learn a lesson from Pocheon-gun and its residents on how to prepare for and prevent flood damage.

The writer is a reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Jeon Ick-jin

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