Press Briefing on Seoul City’s Flood Control Safety Measures in 2012
Date: May 21, 2012
Venue: Briefing Room, Seosomun Building, Seoul City Hall
Safety is a basic right of the citizens that must be protected for the sake of their happiness, and the same applies to flood control. Thus, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will announce several plans to prevent flood damage in 2012.
This summer, as usual, the rainy season will come. We do our best to forecast the rain, but we also need to prepare appropriate safety measures. Less precipitation than usual is expected this year, which is welcome news, but I cannot depend on the accuracy of any such forecast. It seems to me that the atmosphere is inherently unstable, so I expect torrential rainfalls regardless of the forecast. Jejudo Island was hit hard by torrential rainfall this April, causing many roads to become submerged and inflicting flood damage all across the island. The precipitation in April reached a record high. In particular, it rained an average of 581 millimeters per day on Hallasan Mountain. Heavy rain, caused by atmospheric instability, swept across the country.
Let’s take a look at the status of the areas damaged by flooding. If the forecasts are correct, we can take measures to prepare for potential flooding. But, regardless, we should investigate the susceptibility of each area to flooding. Heavy rainfall of over 30 millimeters per hour usually occurs about three or four times per year on average, but that increased to five and six times in 2010 and 2011, respectively. The impervious rates are all the more surprising. It was 8 percent in 1962 and increased to 48 percent in 2010. Of particular concern is the fact that much of this country’s population and assets are concentrated in Seoul, with about 40,000 households located below ground in flood-prone areas.
I will now give you details on some of the damage caused by flooding in Seoul in 2012. Flood damage occurred in 34 areas in downtown Seoul, with 18 casualties and 14,806 incidents of damage—amounting to KRW 30.8 billion in loss. This is an unforgettable tragedy, and yet it is the devastating reality of this city. Last year, the region that experienced the largest single rainfall was Namhyeon, Gwanak-gu, on July 27. At one point, it was raining 113 millimeters per hour, reaching a three-hour average of 218.5 millimeters.
Now, I will brief you on our flood prevention measures for flood-prone areas. Due to climate change and changes in the urban environment, we need customized solutions. Therefore, the following measures should be seriously considered. I met face-to-face with residents in flood-stricken areas and held numerous meetings with civic groups. I also had in-depth discussions with experts and visited the disaster prevention center in Japan. Listening Policy workshops were held with relevant parties, and after discussions, agreements were made with related institutions. Furthermore, a series of dialogues were held with 2,255 people. We conducted meetings constantly.
After all of these meetings, the Seoul Metropolitan Government came up with the following flood control measures for areas near Dorimcheon Stream. Last year, we experienced rainfall of up to 113 millimeters per hour, and 3,327 areas were submerged. In response to this, last August, the Seoul Metropolitan Government promised residents that it would install rainfall storage tanks with a total capacity of 60,000 tons. However, there were many conflicting opinions on the installation of the storage tanks among local residents, local civic groups, and related institutions, including Seoul National University (SNU). Amid such conflict, one solution was eventually agreed upon. The Seoul Metropolitan Government held numerous discussions with about 24 civic groups and met with officials at SNU more than eight times. We also visited the site in question on May 1.
At last, we have come to an agreement. We have decided to install 60,000 tons of storage tanks at the front gate of SNU, 15,000 tons near Beodeulgol, and 10,000 tons near the waterfall of the Engineering Department building. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to those who supported this plan. From the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s perspective, some issues were particularly contentious; however, it is true that the civic groups were very careful not to miss any weak points in the agreement. As it will take some time to complete the installation work, the nearby construction site of the Gangnam circulation highway will be used for rainwater storage in the meantime.
In the Gwanghwamun area, no damage or casualties were reported, but roads were flooded on several occasions. To address this issue, on August 4, the Seoul Metropolitan Government announced the installation of an underground rainwater tunnel at a depth of 40 meters. However, the cost of this project will be tremendous, and it is not eco-friendly; thus, we have worked hard to come up with an alternative.
We have found a solution, and we plan to improve our risk management capabilities by enhancing the facilities. In order to resolve the limitations of the C-shaped sewage pipe, which has been identified as the root cause of flooding in the area, the facilities in Gwanghwamun will be replaced. The number of 100-meter-long rainwater pipes will be increased, and 140-meter sewage boxes will be improved. This area is representative of Korea, but is one of the least flood-prone in the city, so we decided to save money by considering the characteristics of the area.
Of course, the management of this area was decided by citizens and experts, and considering the importance of building such large-scale facilities, the project stirred up conflicting opinions. However, all parties concerned agreed on taking the environment into account before proceeding with further preventive measures.
I will now talk about the area of Sinwol. About 4,000 households on average are hit hard by torrential rainfalls every year in this area, causing the citizens considerable hardship. Thus, the residents of Sinwol, civic groups, and experts held meetings on several occasions to seek ways of preventing flood damage. The measures discussed included using sewage boxes or rainfall storage tanks and connecting with the Jemulpo Tunnel to use the Seoul-Incheon underground roadway. However, with a flat branch-like form, the only feasible measure what the construction of a rainfall storage system. It will take some time for the construction work to be completed, so in the meantime, the flood control measures of this region will be integrated with the water circulation measures. Regarding the rainwater storage facilities in Sinwol, a turn-key approach will be used, with orders being placed in early June. This project will be the first of its kind in Korea.
The implementation method is expected to root out any poor management and irrationality, and the entire process will be shared with the citizen ombudsmen. Moreover, water circulation measures will be carried out simultaneously.
In addition to the three previously mentioned areas, we have developed long-term measures for the Seoul region and 34 vulnerable areas as follows: expansion of water absorption, expansion and construction of rainwater pump facilities, construction of rainwater storage facilities, adjustment of streams, and improvement of water circulation.
All of these facilities are scheduled to be completed by 2021. This is quite far in the future, so we desperately ask for citizens’ participation and dedicated administrative services.
Now, let’s take a look at landslide prevention measures.
First, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will combine measures after carrying out additional research on landslides. On July 27, 2011, landslides occurred in 12 different areas along Umyeonsan Mountain, causing tremendous loss—16 casualties and 50 people injured. It was truly an unforgettable tragedy. During the incident, the Seoul Metropolitan Government took emergency response measures, and on November 25, 2011, the Korean Geotechnical Society (KGS) conducted an investigation of the landslides. So far, 91 percent of the restoration work has been completed, and is expected to be done by the end of May. There have been various demands made concerning the landslide on Umyeonsan Mountain, which prompted the launching of a taskforce comprised of private and public officials last January. In addition, complementary measures will be implemented in the near future. Furthermore, the Korean Society of Civil Engineers is also carrying out additional investigations on the 12 landslide-stricken areas, and a division or organization exclusively responsible for landslides will be launched as well.
Seoul is surrounded by mountains, among which, 167 areas are susceptible to landslides and should be closely monitored. Areas that are prone to landslides will be inspected and monitored, and in the event a landslide is deemed likely to occur, warnings will be sent via text message to residents in areas that could sustain damage.
Now, I will tell you about the improved safety measures.
This year, the participation of citizens will be crucial. First of all, the sewage pipes in 23 flood-prone areas will be equipped with a system to monitor the water level inside the pipes. In 2011, 20 areas were equipped with such a system. The data on the water level in the sewage pipes will be monitored on a real-time basis in cooperation with the Seoul City Disaster Status Control Center. This data will be critical to the provision of flooding alerts and evacuation warnings. Streams have also been equipped with an automated system that monitors current flows and sends notifications, and 34 emergency ladders have been installed along 16 streams and valleys, enabling citizens to evacuate those areas in the event of severe flooding. Information on disasters and disaster response will be actively used to prepare for crisis situations, and a community map that incorporates information on flood damage will be created in cooperation with citizens and Daum Agora. It may also be possible to receive information on flood-damaged areas via a citizen-operated SNS notification system. And, of course, disaster broadcasts will be made continuously.
In the event of torrential rain, citizens are asked to act in accordance with the Citizen Code of Conduct. A website created exclusively to provide flood-prevention measures in Seoul will be opened soon; please bookmark it. Also, please keep up-to-date on current conditions and forecasts via Seoul’s large outdoor displays, subway broadcasts, digital viewers and town hall meetings. All matters related to flood damage should be discussed with the “Dolbom (Care) Officials”. Flood prevention facilities, including washboards, will be installed. Before the rainy season begins in earnest, such facilities will be installed in 8,624 buildings and at 6,000 places inside commercial buildings. As of last year, the facilities had already been installed in 18,549 households.
In fact, this is the core of this year’s flood prevention activities in Seoul. The Dolbom (Care) Officials working in various areas around Seoul will deliver urgent news and respond to inquiries immediately. Also, 11,000 staff members will be allocated to 18,000 homes that have suffered flood damage in the past, and will be responsible for promoting safety measures to prevent flood damage, and will serve as emergency contacts in crisis situations. Tasked with providing support for all Seoul citizens, 11,000 flood control emergency troops, 3,500 portable water pumps, and onsite emergency troops in 34 vulnerable areas will be provided.
Rainwater and sewage pipes should be dredged or improved. As of 2011, rainwater drainage pipes in 2,855 areas had already been dredged, and 3,000 more areas will be improved in 2012. This year, the rainwater drainage pipes in 480,000 areas will be dredged. Before the rainy season, 20 kilometers of sewage pipes will be improved and 1,033 kilometers in flood-prone areas will be dredged.
I sincerely hope that no tragic accidents occur, but just in case, all necessary manpower and equipment will be mobilized in preparation for large-scale disasters. In particular, Seoul’s disaster safety network will mobilize 280,000 people, including members of relevant institutions, military, police force, Korea Electric Power Corporation, KT, and voluntary fire departments. As needed, manpower and equipment will be provided on a gradual basis.
When you are woken by torrential rainfall late at night, you may rest easy, as we are making sure that Seoul is kept safe and happy. I, Park Won Soon, am the head of the Disaster and Safety Management Office, which operates on a 24-hour basis for a five-month period, from May 15 to October 15. I will do my best in this position.
Although we cannot conquer nature, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will make monumental efforts to prevent accidents and minimize damage caused by flooding or landslides.
I look forward to your active participation, and I also would like to express my gratitude to the authorities concerned, civic groups, and the citizens of Seoul.