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[Editorial] $5.54m toys?

Robotic fish cannot monitor water quality

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Published : 2014-08-01 21:20
Updated : 2014-08-01 21:20

If former President Lee Myung-bak had made good on his promise, robotic fish would be swimming along with carp and other freshwater fish and carrying out the task of monitoring water quality in the nation’s four major rivers. None of the developed prototypes, however, can properly perform any of the functions they were designed for.

In November 2009, Lee promised that fish-like robots would be released into the rivers to monitor water quality. He said their task was important for the control of water quality in the four rivers, which he had made the focus of a large-scale reclamation project launched one month before.

But the 5.7 billion won project to deploy robotic fish in the rivers has proved to be nothing but a fraud. The Board of Audit and Inspection, which had conducted a three-month inquiry into the project, said earlier in the week that their swimming speed and underwater communication capability were far behind the target.

The state watchdog also said that none of the five sensors, installed in each prototype to monitor the water’s temperature, acidity, conductivity, oxygen level and murkiness, functioned properly. Moreover, the watchdog found the speed of their underwater mobile communication was well below the target. Simply put, the robotic fish are little better than useless toys.

These findings are contradictory to an earlier report by the Korea Research Council for Industrial Science and Technology, a government research institute responsible for the robotic fish project. In August 2013, two months after the three-year project was completed, the think tank announced that its test proved the prototypes were working properly.

The watchdog concluded the think tank’s false report was based on fabricated test results. In other words, the project was a fraud. As a matter of course, the watchdog demanded that disciplinary action be taken against the researchers and others responsible for falsifying the test results.

They are not the only ones culpable. Government officials who failed to conduct due diligence should also be held accountable. The ultimate responsibility, however, lies with former President Lee, who squandered trillions of won on the ill-conceived four-rivers reclamation project.

Well-functioning robotic fish would have proven that none of the water in any of the four rivers has improved in quality. On the contrary, there are reports galore that the water quality has worsened since the reclamation project was completed. But the problem is that little action can be taken against him.

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