The Korea Herald


Rainy season may trouble water management

By 배지숙

Published : June 9, 2011 - 19:01

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Concerns are mounting over the safety of the four-river refurbishment sites as well as the burial pits for slaughtered animals as the country enters into its rainy season Friday.

Whether the government-led projects, both blamed for being ineffectual and reckless, cansustain the large amount of hheavyrainfall is drawing attention.

According to the Korea Water Resources Corporation, an agency in charge of water quality management and reservoir construction of the four major rivers in the country, 170 projectshave made 70 percent progress. The construction of reservoirs and dikes has marked a completion ratio of 90 percent. The facilities are designed to prevent damage from possible flooding.

However, civic activists and residents believe it could ruin livelihoods. In April, 100 millimeters of rainfall on Gwangju swept away water pipes in Seo District and 95 households nearby suffered from cessation of water supply for several days. Farmers also claimed an unprecedented amount of flooding severely damaged their farm.

The administration also cut water supply to half a million residents in Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province, for five consecutive days last month due to malfunction of a reservoir affected by the river basin construction nearby.

“Since the builders have dug out all the river basin, reservoirs as well as other facilities have become more vulnerable to even the smallest amount of rainfall because the current has become too fast,” North Gyeongsang Province residents told Construction Minister Kwon Do-yup earlier this week.

The minister responded by vowing to take swift measures.

“We are planning to speed up the procedure because we are also aware that heavy rain might cause big problems,” an official of the water corporation said.

However, some worry whether snap operation could trigger industrial disasters. According to the minor opposition Liberty Forward Party, 19 people have died at the four-river construction sites and another 11 died while working on related projects since early 2009.

The party claimed that in order to meet the early deadline the administration has set, the majority of workers were working overtime, having an extreme fatigue and eventual tragedy.

Another headache for the government is the possible water contamination from the burial sites of more than 3 million livestock slaughtered for prevention against foot-and-mouth disease that swept the nation earlier this year.

The Environment Ministry repaired hundreds of burial sites near water sources and residential areas after surveys showed that 143 out of 3,000 sampled underground water sources within a 300-meter radius of animal burial sites across the nation had bacteriological contamination beyond standards. Still, there have been allegations that leachate penetrated the vinyl wrappings of the burial sites and have affected the ground water. Moreover when the warm and hot weather have melted down the earth, the hastily buried carcass carrying germs and harmful materials will be exposed to water and air, causing hygiene problems.

“We are alert to the possibilities and are thoroughly monitoring the situation,” an Environment Ministry official said.

By Bae Ji-sook (