Tue, Apr 02, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Water supply needs long-term plan

By Wang Jieh-jiuh 王价巨

Despite abundant rainfall, the government is warning of a potential drought. This is because water passes over the surface of the land very quickly in Taiwan, into the short, rapidly flowing rivers and streams shooting down the steep gradient of the mountains that form the backbone of the island, into the surrounding seas. Because of this, the water is not able to seep into the land.

That being said, this is a long-standing problem and one wonders why the government has failed to come up with an idea or strategy to address the problem. The nation’s survival depends upon a coordinated approach to water resource management.

The Council for Economic Planning and Development is responsible for national spatial planning, but it has no over-arching plan for local development.

Industrial development is fragmentary and uncoordinated, with local governments competing and focusing on similar industries, leading to a waste of resources and misplaced expectations.

Industry is expanding outside the metropolitan areas into woodlands and forests, resulting in their excessive development and making conservation of natural water resources more difficult.

Water-intensive industries are also placing higher demands on these resources, and less water is being retained in the environment. All this has led to a precarious situation, with water resources at risk. The nation has reached a crossroads in which one wrong turn could spell doom.

Sustainable development is just one duty within the council’s remit, it is not its main goal. General targets have been set, but there is little in the form of actual tactics, plans or strategies to achieve them.

In the absence of any national spatial planning or vision for how development is to take place, how can individual departments and bureaus be expected to proceed according to a coordinated plan?

The Council of Agriculture’s Forestry Bureau is the agency directly responsible for overseeing the nation’s forestry resources.

However, as the land it is supposed to protect continues to recede because of industrial development, all the bureau can do is try to create new forests and woodland elsewhere.

It is next to impossible to conserve decent water resources in such young, temporary woodland and this restricts the water conservation projects of the Council of Agriculture’s Soil and Water Conservation Bureau to merely promoting rural planning, and constructing levees and dams.

This inadequate soil and water conservation means that water sources are usually churned up and muddy after heavy rain, which is why the nation is experiencing a shortage of clean water.

The Water Resources Agency under the Ministry of Economic Affairs is responsible for managing the nation’s water resources, but it has no appreciable, coordinated, long-term strategic plan on how these resources should be managed.

Undertaking engineering projects to build reservoirs to store water, and construct levees and dams for flood-prevention purposes are just emergency-response measures to address the problem of water resource management.

Even non-engineering measures adopted in recent years, such as special promotions to get households and communities to conserve water, is just about piling up figures and is still born of an engineering mentality.

Does the agency really think that these promotions have increased public awareness about how to reduce the risks of floods and droughts?

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