Korea battles worst drought in decades [2015/06/24 09:52]

The government, military and agricultural associations are joining hands to tackle the worst dry spell in nearly four decades, propping up water supply, labor force, financial and other related support.

Defense Minister Han Min-koo on Wednesday instructed the military to provide additional personnel and equipment to hardest-hit regions such as Gyeonggi and Gangwon Provinces in consultation with municipalities. The ministry has been helping farmers since late May.

Precipitation in the two provinces stands at about 57 percent of their annual average, the ministry said. The water level of Soyang River Dam in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, hovers around 153 meters, marking 25 percent of the total capacity and just about 2 meters away from the lowest ever since its 1975 launch. The facility`s operation is coming under threat as the figures are going down by some 3 centimeters every day, according to the state-run Korea Water Resources Corp.

The drought has also caused damage to nearly 3,000 hectares of fields across Gangwon. “The military stationed in related areas is lending a helping hand on a division scale by mobilizing water wagons, trailers, fire reels, fumigator trucks and troops,” ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok said at a news briefing on Thursday.

“We have so far provided 140,000 liters of water, nine wagons and 100 servicemen to Donghae, Hwacheon, Cheolwon, Pyeongchang and other cities and counties in Gangwon Province.” Earlier in the day, Agriculture Minister Lee Dong-phil convened a video conference with senior officials from six city and provincial governments to examine their damage and the current situation for formulating countermeasures.

The ministry has decided to constantly review and bolster water supply measures by municipalities and offer financial support if the dry spell drags out further. It also set aside 35.2 billion won ($31.7 million) to cope with the crisis. “We should inject as much workforce and equipment as possible and secure available water resources to minimize the farmers` inconvenience and economic losses and facilitate their work,” Lee was quoted as saying at the meeting.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport also on Thursday began rallying hydroelectric dams along the Han River basin to beef up water supply chiefly sourced from multipurpose dams, while Minister Yoo Il-ho toured PaldangDam in Namyangju, Gyeonggi Province, to inspect the ministry`s response.

In March, the agency devised measures to save more water resources and has since secured an extra 135 million tons. The latest decision reflects persistent concerns over a protracted dry spell and delayed rains in the summer.

Nonghyup, a state-funded agricultural bank, said it has offered relief supplies and financial assistance of 140 million won to 10 cities and counties, while running a situation room for drought management at its 16 regional headquarters and 1,137 branches around the country.

The institution also plans to distribute water pumps, hoses, sprinklers and other gears and help repair related equipment in collaboration with the central and local governments. Members of the ruling Saenuri Party, for their part, visited a reservoir in Ganghwa County, Incheon, that has seen its reserve rates plunge for the last two years.

They toured the area to look at the damage and discussed support steps after a briefing by county officials. The party delegation was led by Rep. Won Yoo-chul, chair of the policy committee, with officials from the agriculture and land ministries and state-run agricultural and water companies also taking part.
출처: 헤럴드미디어 영자신문 코리아헤럴드 (www.koreaherald.com)