A tiresome blame game

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A tiresome blame game

 The longest-ever rainy season has wiped out fields and homes across the nation, with more than 50 people killed or missing from floods and landslides.

Politicians who should be showing a bipartisan spirit for fast relief measures are instead wrangling over the four rivers renovation project of former President Lee Myung-bak, which has been condemned completely by the liberal government under President Moon Jae-in. The opposition argues that the damage by the floods would have been greater if not for the renovation works done along the key rivers.

The ruling party says the work made things worse. Moon added fuel to the fire, saying the rains could test out flood control capacity, the primary purpose of the four rivers project.

Lee’s signature project to revamp the ecosystem around the country’s four main rivers — the Han, Nakdong, Geum and Yeongsang — cost 22.2 trillion won ($17.3 billion) and raised controversy from the very beginning. The project was a replacement for Lee’s ambitious vision to create a Grand Canal the length of the Korean Peninsula. The project came under four probes by the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI).

Despite the almost unending controversy, it cannot be denied that the work along the four rivers helped lessen water shortages during the annual dry season. Flooding also was reduced during the rainy season.

But much of the work did not get completed due to opposition from environmental groups. Some claim damage this year could have been lessened if work along the riverbanks had been finished.

Instead of finding fault, the government and ruling party should concentrate on checking maintenance works around the Seomjin River and identifying the cause of the failure in dam control.

The four rivers project should not be approached with biased views. It can be reexamined by an independent body of outside experts for a credible evaluation so that it stops being a subject for political wrangling.

But reinvestigation will be meaningless if it ends up like the probe on the decommissioning of the Wolseong Nuclear Unit 1. The government and ruling party have been criticizing its findings after the BAI chief was critical of the nuclear phase-out policy.

A leader has the duty to protect the lives and properties of the people. The government should stop blaming others and do its duty by strengthening the areas vulnerable to natural disasters.
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