It never rains but . . .

Asian floods: Monsoon catastrophe grips countries still reeling from economic crisis.

August 10, 1999

THE WORLD is getting ample rain. It merely cries out for redistribution.

What is not falling on the dry gulch that was once Maryland has been drenching much of Asia. Last week, catastrophic floods killed at least a thousand people and displaced millions. Although this week began with a respite, forecasters predicted monsoon winds for the rest of the month.

Acts of God play no political favorites. Floods north of Seoul wiped out modern suburbs in South Korea that displaced natural forests that would have absorbed the water better, and wiped out grain crops in North Korea, which is already starving.

The rains caused disasters in the mostly Catholic and free-market Philippines, and also in China, where the Communist government announced a plan to relocate some 3 million people from the Yangtze River flood plain.

These are countries still reeling from the 1997 recession that impoverished much of Asia. Lately they have been showing signs of recovery. But the economic dangers have probably inspired the provocative behavior of North Korea and China, psychologically insecure regimes that have lashed out against enemies real and imagined, domestic and foreign.

Cloud-seeding experiments a generation ago pitted state against state. If this could be done reliably now, think of the wars that might start from one nation stealing another's rain. It is enough to make a sensible person yearn for a United Nations that worked.

Redistribution of monsoon-borne rains across the ocean and mountains might ease catastrophe in East Asia and disaster in the U.S. Midwest and East Coast. Not this millennium. Maybe next.

Pub Date: 8/10/99

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