China sends emergency flood/food aid to DPRK

According to the AFP (h/t NKnews.org):

North Korea will receive emergency aid from China amid reports that the impoverished country’s food crisis would worsen this year.

China has decided to provide an unspecified amount of “emergency relief materials” to North Korea, its official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said late today.

“This measure will encourage the Korean people in their efforts to recover from the flood damage as early as possible and more energetically step up the building of a thriving nation,” it said.

The report followed a message of sympathy from China’s president Hu Jintao to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.

In the message, quoted by KCNA, Hu expressed deep sympathy and consolation over “the sad news that some parts of your country were hit by severe flood recently, causing causalities and property losses”.

The North has reported widespread flooding this summer which washed away homes, roads, railways and farmland, causing an unspecified number of deaths.

Heavy downpours last week swelled the Yalu river, which forms part of the border between China and North Korea, sending water spilling over its banks on both sides and inundating homes, roads and farmland.

After decades of deforestation, the North is particularly vulnerable to flooding. In 2007, it reported at least 600 people dead or missing from devastating floods.

Aid groups warned that this year’s flooding would aggravate the North’s chronic food shortages.

The North suffered a famine in the mid-1990s which killed hundreds of thousands. The UN children’s fund estimates one third of children are stunted by malnutrition.

A bungled currency revaluation last November, designed to flush out entrepreneurs’ savings, backfired disastrously, fuelling food shortages and sparking rare outbreaks of unrest.

In 2008 South Korea suspended an annual rice shipment to its impoverished neighbour as relations soured.

For its part, South Korea has also offered to send assistance.  According to Yonhap:

South Korea’s Red Cross on Thursday proposed providing aid to North Korea to help the communist neighbor recover from recent flood damages, an official said.

The proposal was made in a message delivered to a inter-Korean office in the North Korean border town of Kaesong, a Unification Ministry official in Seoul said, declining to be identified.

The ministry said earlier in the day that it was considering allowing emergency relief assistance to North Korea, but did not elaborate. The North, which remains technically at war with the South, had to evacuate a large number of people when heavy rains raised the level of rivers on its border with China and flooded its towns earlier this month.

“It’s not just the people in the Sinuiju border area that we’re considering providing aid to,” a Red Cross official said by phone, declining to be named. “We will follow the examples of 2006 and 2007 when we provided help, but the scale of aid this year will be determined upon exact assessments.”

“The emergency aid will mainly consist of noodles, water, milk and the likes,” the ministry official said, ruling rice out.

The aid, if accepted, could open room for improvement in the inter-Korean relations, which have soured since South Korea blamed North Korea in May for the sinking of its warship. Pyongyang denies involvement in the sinking that killed 46 sailors.

Read the full stories here:
North Korea to receive aid from China
AFP
8/26/2010

S. Korea’s Red Cross proposes sending flood aid to N. Korea
Yonhap
Sam Kim
8/26/2010

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  • Rob Heusdens

    As a dutch citizin, I’d like to add some comment here. It is perhaps a known fact that the Netherlands have had a struggle with water practically all the time, because of it’s low level and flat land shape, whith many rivers and close to the north sea border. In 1953 a large part of the country drowned, and only with the aid of many foreign countries (including pakistan) we survived. After many years a plan was made to finally deal with the risks of floodings (mainly from sea), which is known as the ‘delta works’. Also we are famous for our technological know how on building dikes and mounds and structures to protect against sea- and river water. Just yesterday we had a large TV show for raising money to the people in Pakistan which had serious floodings.
    As for China and DPRK, countries with a fairly good level of technoligcal know how (they both master the building of nuclear power stations and sending rockets into space, etc.) I think it would be good if they would sent their specialists to the Netherlands, to inform themselves how we have built protection systems against the (sea) water. And perhaps we could even aid them in developing their own system of protection against flooding from rivers that swell from rainfall.

    Perhaps the first thing to do is to create a virtual model of the river flows, and gather data about rainfall and river level, in order to create an early warning system, so that people can be warned early and evacuate on time.
    The next step then would be to design several structures that can manage even the most worst conditions of rainfall and flooding, and takes into account that such conditions might occur more often and maybe even with more rainfall in the future, as a consequence of climate change (rising temperatures in oceans will cause more serious rainfall).

    For instance, in the whole region in which water flows into a river (for example the Yalu / Amnok river) one could create barrierers that could hold large amount of water for sufficient large amount of time, and only release the water when the rivers downstream can accomodate for that.

    There is the opportunity also to have these waterbarriers aid also in:
    a. The production of extra electricity for hydro energy (which helps in having the system pay-back itself)
    b. Allows for water storage that can be used when the dry season occurs, and thus create a more constant output of water to the lower regions, where most of the agricultural areas are located.
    c. Implemented also with additional works for water irrigation and extension of the electricity grid.

    Behind those barriers, which are sufficiently upstream in hilly and mountanous areas, needs to be accomodated for sufficient water storages, and areas must be prepared . Since most of the areas are not very much ppulated, only a small amount of people need to be reallocated to higher locations or other areas. Sine those areas can be flooded occasionally, it should not have any agricultural or economical activity, or only very little.

    Downstream and in addition at places where the current dikes are not high enough for accomodating the highest water levels, the dikes need to be adjusted accordingly to protect the land and buildings behind it.

    Between the constructions upstream (water barriers with large water storage capacity) and the constructions downstream, there is a trade-off, and the optimum configuration should be able to be calculated, if a precise enough model of the system can be created, based on both historic data and estimates for future situations, in combination with the economic costs.

    Also the trade-off between on the one hand the chance of inundation and the economic losses that occur, and on the other hand the costs of building the water protection constructions to protect against that damage, should be able to calculate fairly exactly to find an optimum between construction costs and avoided yearly economic losses from flooding.

    For the DPRK in particular, since it might not have the sufficient means to construct this on their own, perhaps the Chinese could be the main investor, and DPRK can pay back the investment by exporting additional quantities of hydro electricity, and by delivering building materials and labor for the project.

    Additional funds may come from international help organisations, which currently provide food aid to the DPRK, as this plan helps to restore the ability of the DPRK to grow their own food and protect their agricultural areas from flooding, and which would lead to less destruction of harvest as the consequence of flooding.

    As a secondary issue, the additional hydro capacity is most usefull when used in combination with sources like wind-energy, as the hydro power plants can normally provide back up for wind power. The set back is however that in case of heavy rainfall, this backup facility may not be usefull because of the risk of flooding down river. But this only happens during a short period per year.

    Of course, an intermediate strategy, which increases the water carrying capacity of the mountaneous regions, by replanting as much trees, should be carried out too, but this will probably not really solve the problem sufficiently.

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