Wed, May 18, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Reservoirs surrounded by a lifeless wasteland

By Chen Hsin-Hsiung 陳信雄

The government was scheduled to implement second-phase water rationing in southern and central Taiwan today, but on Monday it decided to delay the move. A dry rainy season has caused more than 70 percent of the nation’s water reservoirs to accumulate suspended sediment and run dry.

I had an opportunity to visit Zengwen Reservoir (曾文水庫) on May 4 and observe the catchment area above the reservoir. What was once a lush green forest has become a barren mountain lacking all signs of life, and with gray skies overhead it felt as though I had inadvertently arrived in the middle of a desert. There was only a little yellowish-green water in the reservoir with the bottom nearly visible. While there, I saw illegal chicken coops all over the place that were polluting the reservoir along the mountain area and yet construction and planning authorities continue to relax mountainside development regulations.

Shihmen Reservoir’s (石門水庫) Amu Plateau has also become an isolated island because of suspended sediment. In the past, inspection agencies discovered that the numerous bed and breakfasts built on Qingjing Veteran’s Farm in Nantou County had nearly turned the mountain into a barren wasteland and subsequently enforced measures to remove them. Beginning at Lishan (梨山) and then spreading to the Shihmen and Zengwen reservoirs’ catchment areas, three areas have suffered excessive deforestation, turning them into messes that the government cannot clean up.

Politicians are constantly busy with elections, attending events at temples or walking around cities where most of the votes are concentrated, but are any of them willing to visit mountainous areas located 500m or more above sea level? They should take a look at the barren mountaintops, dried-out water sources and the cash crops that are incessantly devouring the nation’s beautiful forests.

Elections are once again upon the nation, and with their consciences corroded, politicians are even more prone to fall from virtue as public polls ebb and flow. Now there is even a desire once again to revive the Meinong Reservoir (美濃水庫) project.

Taiwan’s world-class reservoirs used to have a water storage capacity exceeding 400 million tonnes, but the suspended sediment building up in the reservoirs has forced continuous draining of flood water in a regulatory fashion so that they continue to linger in this nightmare of water shortage.

However, the water storage capacity of Oguchi Dam in the catchment area of the Tama River, which is the main water resource area for Tokyo, has a water storage capacity of only 200 million tonnes, and not only does it supply the 16 million people living in Tokyo, it has also never required regular flood discharges nor had to implement measures to ration water regionally. Instead, all one can see is a gorgeous, lush forest area surrounding the Tama River catchment area.

Does our mighty government feel no sense of shame or remorse?

The government continuously advocates energy conservation, carbon emissions reduction and a national reforestation effort, but the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions remain high, showing no sign of decreasing.

The national reforestation effort has been in place for many years, but the accumulated reforested area has already far surpassed the actual current area of the nation’s forests, begging the question whether the trees have been planted in the Taiwan Strait or in the Pacific Ocean.

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