[EDITORIALS]Water crisis catches us asleepToday is World Water Day, as declared by the United Nations. It is the twelfth observance; this year’s specific issue is water-related natural hazards. They include not only drought and flooding but also diseases caused by polluted water. The range of those problems is wide, and the scale is getting bigger every year.
Typhoon Rusa two years ago caused about 6 trillion won ($5 billion) worth of damage. Last year’s Typhoon Maemi caused another 4.5 trillion won in damage. The unidentified epidemic that recently hit the village of Singuri in South Gyeongsang province is thought to have been caused by an unsanitary, makeshift water supply.
At the end of last year, 53 percent of the country was supplied by central water facilities and 37 percent received water from local autonomous groups. About 10 percent of the country, mostly in agricultural regions, uses makeshift water facilities that are very vulnerable to pollution caused by livestock concentrations and pesticides.
But our investment to prevent flooding, drought and water-borne disease is less than our investment in other social infrastructure. Investment in repairing and restoring waterways to prevent flooding in 2002 was less than 13 percent of the amount invested in roads. The investment in multipurpose dams to increase the scope of centrally supplied water was even smaller, less than 6 percent of funds used to build roads. Due to budget shortage, the supply of running water in provinces does not grow as is planned
The Ministry of Construction and Transportation estimates that by the year 2006, we will be 100 million metric tons short of water. By the year 2011, we will be short by 1.8 billion metric tons. The government, however, has not built a single medium or large dam in the last ten years. This means that Seoul has practically admitted that it has no plans to fight a water shortage.
International organizations like the United Nations worry that with the climate changes in the next 20 years, water and other natural resources could become the most serious cause of wars. Greeting this World Water Day, we hope the government will soon come up with measures to deal with climate change and the task of securing water resosurces for our needs.