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[Opinion] Flood Control: Munsan Model

Posted July. 21, 2006 03:02,   


The town of Munsan, Gyeonggi Province, was helpless against torrential rains that poured down in 1996 and 1998. In 1999, it became worse, and even the second floors of apartments were inundated. No wonder it became known as a chronic inundation zone. Whenever there was flooding, residents who were concerned about over-flooding rivers submerging their houses would only look at the dike. Yanggu County in Gangwon Province was also powerless against 660mm of torrential rains that rained for four days in the summer of 1999. The waters of Paro Lake smashed houses, causing great damage. Nevertheless, both cities won their respective battles against the recent “water bombings.”

Since 2000, for three years, Munsan, surrounded by the Imjin River and Munsan Stream, spent about 400 billion won, including funds from the government, to set up defensive measures against flooding. It widened the river width so it would not overflow even if there were massive floods that would come once every 50 or 100 years. It also installed underwater motors in its pumping facilities so it could pump out water even if it is inundated. Railways and roads were elevated a maximum of six meters and the river dike was also reinforced. Despite the recent rainfall above 500mm, the city was not inundated, and the inundation of outer areas was limited to a minimum level.

Yanggu also spent tens of billions of won of budget money since 2000 on fixing its streams. The width of the stream was widened, and Suipcheon and Seocheon Stream’s drainage area increased by 36 and 14 percent, respectively. The low bridges that posed as an obstacle to the river flow were elevated and their shapes changed into long arches. The dike was reconstructed using boulders. Such measures shone when Typhoon Rusa hit Korea in 2002. The adjacent areas suffered damages amounting to tens of billions of won but Yanggu’s damage was limited to three billion. During the “water bombing” during July 14 to 16, it was hit with 513 mm of rain but its damage is estimated at 15 billion won, which is lower than that of other areas.

Floods, also known in Korean as “water demons,” are fearsome catastrophes. However, the efforts of humans can beat the demons. Munsan and Yanggu, which have mended the barn after the horse is stolen, various times, are such cases. Paju City Urban Construction Bureau Chief Kim Young-gu, who was in charge of constructing Munsan’s water defense system, said, “We kept telling to ourselves that if Munsan was inundated once more, it meant that all of Korea was inundated, and we prepared in various aspects.” There is also another thing. In both cities, more governmental workers worked in emergency shifts and were also avid in visiting spots and urging citizens to evacuate.

Hong Kwon-hee, Editorial Writer, konihong@donga.com