Tackling the droughtThe Korean Peninsula has become parched due to an extreme rainfall deficit. The protracted drought has hit the central and eastern coastal regions particularly hard. Total precipitation this year has been just 139.8 millimeters (5.5 inches) in Seoul and 144 millimeters in Gangneung, Gangwon - the lowest levels since rainfall began to be measured in 1973.
Households in urban areas have yet to feel any discomfort, but the reservoirs at Songyang and Chungju Dams that channel water into the Han River have already shown their bottoms. Rice paddies and crop fields in Gyeonggi and northern Gangwong have dried out due to the shortage. Worse, the annual monsoon is expected to arrive later than the usual mid-June this summer.
Korea has been suffering from severe droughts since last year. Climate change demands new approaches. Signs show that the climate is changing around the Korean Peninsula. The weather is getting ever hotter and fluctuations in rainfall have become more dramatic. Annual precipitation in Seoul averaged 1,231.5 millimeters in the 1970s. Over the last 10 years, rainfall increased by 22.7 percent to 1,511.5 millimeters. Rain between June and September, in particular, rose 37.7 percent. But rainfall lessened 8.7 percent from October to May. There are worries about heavy rain and floods during the summer and drought for the remainder of the year. This is the curse of global warming.
The central and local governments must work together to lessen damage from the drought. But in the longer run, they must come up with outlines to cope with changes in the climate around the peninsula. For now, we need to develop underground water supplies to irrigate crop fields. The dam reservoirs across the nation must be coordinated to rationalize the use of our total water supplies. The government must develop more accurate technology on weather forecasting and new techniques to augment water supplies through dam control.
The extra water supplies the country has secured through renovation projects around the four major rivers need to be used to dampen the severely dried-up parts of the country. The country needs to continue to develop artificial rainfall technologies. We may have to consider the construction of smaller dams without causing harm to residents or the environment. Flood damage controls also should be readied better. Still we cannot be fully prepared against natural disasters. We all have to save more and waste less.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 17, Page 30