[News Focus] Drought complicates Moon’s plan to undo river project

President Moon Jae-in’s move to reverse the effects of a controversial damming and dredging project has run into an unexpected snag: South Korea may be entering one of the most severe droughts in decades.
The water levels of the dammed pools will gradually drop by 2-3 centimeters per hour from 2 p.m. on Thursday, officials from the environment and land ministries said in a joint press briefing Monday.
Some experts and farmers expressed concerns that the timing could not be more wrong.
As of the end of May, the country saw an accumulated precipitation of 161.1 milliliters, only half the usual level of 292.7 mm.
“The release of water from only six dammed pools and lowering the water level by up to 1.25 meters will do very little to improve the water quality or remove algae,” the Korea Federation for Environmental Movements said in a statement.
Along with the immediate release of water from the dammed pools, Moon ordered the execution of a drought countermeasure plan in advance.
“Drought countermeasures must not be a temporary plan, but should fundamentally tackle the serious drought problem here,” Moon was quoted as saying.
When rice planting season ends, the government will further lower the water level by 50-100 centimeters in October and open all dammed pools to the lowest limit by the end of 2018, Cheong Wa Dae said.
“In an effort to restore the environment in the rivers through a comprehensive and considerate analysis, the opening of another 10 pools will be decided depending on the outcome of future studies on their impact on the ecosystem,” said Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Park Soo-hyun.
Cheong Wa Dae said ministries and a related task force will monitor water levels to effectively deal with problems following the opening of dams.

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