Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Korea Tackles Record Drought

Sizzling hot summer weather has arrived in South Korea, but the early summer rains have yet to come. According to the Korea Metrological Administration, rainfall since the beginning of May has been the lowest since 1908.

The prolonged dry spell has prompted the government to set up a disaster relief center to coordinate responses and set aside 7 billion won for drought-relief efforts.

Provincial governments in many parts of the country have been drilling wells and supplying residents with drinking and agricultural water. As of Tuesday, about 80% of the country was rated at the most extreme drought level.

“Since May, the worst drought in a century has persisted and heat wave warnings have been sent out as well. Many people, including farmers, are having difficulties” said Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, “The government is worried about possible fallout, such as price hikes for produce and reduced water supply.”

After the meeting, Mr. Kim visited one of the hardest hit regions in his second such visit less than a week. Last Thursday he visited Hongseong, a mid-western farming city, where rainfall since May is only about 11% that of last year. Reservoirs have also dried up – the city’s water reserves are less than 15%, causing concern for the region’s farmers.

Seoul’s rainfall from May 1 to June 24 was 10.6 mm, only around 7% of the total in the same period last year. The national average was 68.3 mm, compared to 233.8 mm last year.

The weather agency attributes the severe drought to a persistent high pressure system over the eastern part of the country. It forecasts rain this weekend, but not enough to fully soak parched lands.

The northern part of the peninsula is also suffering from extreme conditions.

North Korea’s state media has issued a series of reports about water shortages. In a recent dispatch, the Korea Central News Agency reported: “Crops have withered in the country’s west coastal area and the water level has lowered in rivers and reservoirs,” adding that rice paddies have been affected by “the devastating drought.”

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