Mon, Mar 31, 2003 - Page 8 News List

War could prove a hazard to water levels

By Chen Yi-jing 陳怡靜

Scientists from Russia have warned that the war in Iraq may lead to an ecological disaster. The disaster may include the leakage of oil fields, which can kill hundreds and thousands of seabirds and aquatic lives due to oceanic pollution. The use of biological and chemical weapons in the region could make the people there sterile or lead to unpredictable diseases. How are these consequences of war related to us in Taiwan, far away from the war?

The global linkage has made the people of Taiwan feel the war's effect on society, economy and people's livelihood. But from an ecological perspective, to what extent will the war in the Middle East affect people's lives and environment?

I recently attended the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan. If we take the hydrologic cycle and global climate changes into consideration, there is concrete evidence to show that the excessive emission of carbon dioxide is related to the erratic changes in global hydrology.

On the battlefield of the Middle East, the US drops thousands of new types of bombs and Iraq attempts to destroy the oil wells in order to prevent the US troops from invading. The blazing fire fills the air. The gravel sand and saltpeter dust blanket the battlefield. It is almost impossible to estimate how much of hydrocarbon emissions go into the atmosphere with smoke and carbon dioxide from the combustion.

We can easily estimate the damage to oil wells by the volume of oil leakage, but the damage from the large quantities of exhaust gas going into atmospheric circulation simply cannot be estimated. The atmospheric damage can accelerate the pace of climate change. We do not know where the next flood or drought due to climate change is going to take place.

The whole world will later pay a considerable cost for the war's consequences -- the loss of lives and property due to atmospheric damage.

The whole world will not be able to remain aloof. An ecological catastrophe brought by the war may come! The war between people makes the harmony between humanity and nature unattainable. And nature's counterattack is approaching humanity invisibly.

Global warming originates from the excessive emission of carbon dioxide. One region's industrial or war pollution can, indirectly, alter the hydrologic cycles in other countries or regions and even lead to natural disasters. According to the University of Tokyo, the heavy rain in Tokai in September 2000 brought 428mm of rainfall to Nagoya in one day.

In September 2001, Typhoon Nari brought heavy rain to Taiwan. The rainfall at Feitsui Reservoir reached 468mm in one day (almost one sixth of the yearly total) and led to serious floods in Taipei.

Last year, Taiwan had the most serious drought in recent years, leading to the deterioration of water quality and quantity in many reservoirs and soil erosion in the catchment areas.

These incidents in recent years are not only dealing a blow to our domestic water resource management but also seriously threaten the people's livelihoods and create a lingering fear.

At a time when we are confronted with water resource management and the adjustment of water prices due to water shortage in the reservoirs, or when we see on television that the war is doing damage to the natural environment and ecology, we should remind ourselves not to consume resources excessively. Allowing humanity to be in harmony with nature is an important way to ensure the survival of humans on the planet.

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