Saving water is a top priorityThe much-anticipated rainy season is due to start this week and hopefully provide the hydration needed to heal a parched nation after an unprecedented and lengthy drought. Monsoons are forecast on the country’s southern tip from Wednesday, but we can’t be sure if this week’s rainfall will be enough to drench the country’s severely dry central area.
The gravity of the drought - the longest in 42 years - in Korea’s central and eastern regions has been overshadowed by the outbreak here of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). The water levels in dams and reservoirs are at record lows, and farmers are struggling due to a lack of water supplies ahead of rice-planting season. Some areas have already begun moderating tap water supplies. Hopefully, the rain could put an end to the ordeal. But we can’t worry about water shortages every spring and summer.
Weather experts predict droughts could become more frequent and severe on the Korean Peninsula. According to a report on climate change here issued in March by the Ministry of Environment and the weather authority, the nation was typically struck by droughts every four to six years, though that cycle has shortened due to climate change. If the water supply is 10 percent less, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) could be reduced by 6.4 trillion won ($5.78 billion) a year; and by 146 trillion won with a water deficiency of 50 percent.
The previous Lee Myung-bak government pushed forward with its four-rivers restoration project to enhance readiness against droughts and floods. Rivers were dredged and dams built. But the initiative was criticized for its inefficiency, and reservoir water couldn’t reach areas in need. We must stop wrangling over the political implications and seriously deliberate on the country’s short- and long-term water supply. Experts advise constructing customized mini-dams in upper streams to minimize damage to the environment. So this proposal should be discussed with residents, and necessary modifications should be made around these rivers.
Rain water must also be stored and waste water recycled for cleaning resources. In addition, we must enhance national energy conservation efforts to join in global endeavors to minimize the risks associated with global warming and climate change.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 20, Page 26