SEOUL, June 25 (Korea Bizwire) – When former President Lee Myung-bak tried to persuade Koreans about the benefits of his Four Major Rivers Restoration Project, he spoke of the practical usage of the water resources in the rivers.
To avoid widespread suspicion that the project would be a canal linking the Han River and Nakdong River, he argued that the project could help with flood control, by dredging river basins and then using the contained water in case of a drought.
However, three years after the completion of the project that cost more than 22 trillion won, Korea is suffering a severe drought, but is struggling to use the plentiful water in the rivers.
On June 24, Lee Dong-phil, Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and Yoo Il-ho, Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, visited the Ipo Weir on the Han River in Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province, and promised to “set up long-term measures to utilize the water resources in the Han River for irrigation when a drought comes.”
The Ipo Weir is one of the multipurpose barrages constructed under the river restoration project, and its water reserve rate is more than 100 percent. In Yeoju, two more barrages, Yeoju Weir and Gangcheon Weir, were constructed under the project, but the water in the river is not well utilized for irrigation due to a lack of pipes or irrigation facilities to carry the water to the fields.
Among the 7,800ha of farmland in the county, only 40 percent is irrigated by water from Han River. The county had to drill 15 tubular wells to plant rice this year.
According to the draft of the master plan to utilize the water resources contained by the four rivers project released by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, an additional 1.09 trillion won is needed to equip the weirs with related facilities to carry the water to the farmlands. The ministry will finalize the master plan to counter drought in October.
Minister Lee said, “Now, we are carrying the water with buckets, but with the long-term plan, we will make practical use of the water in the barrages.”
By John Choi (firstname.lastname@example.org)