The Construction and Planning Agency under the Ministry of the Interior is similarly inept when it comes to national spatial resource planning, utilization and management. Despite a falling birth rate, it has allowed urban development to continue at an uncontrollable rate.
There is no managed growth, nor boundaries imposed on urban development, and areas are being rezoned and land expropriated.
The sheer amount of protected land being rezoned as residential and the scale of construction being allowed on land formerly designated for agricultural use only mean that many areas of land are being made impermeable, and water is no longer able to seep into it.
Local review committees also ignore the serious imbalance in supply and demand, and the lack of staff to service the huge new public facilities being built, which is leading to a further waste of resources.
In addition, these newly developed areas are encouraging population inflows, the size of which is hard to predict, and this makes it very difficult to plan urban infrastructure or estimate water usage.
The green grids and blue networks in the cities are disconnected, and local storm water retention basins are not viable because the hope that rainwater in one area can be prevented from flowing out to others is fraught with problems.
As a result, it is difficult to establish a water supply distribution network within a city. Rainwater, unable to sink into the city’s impermeable surface, runs off into the rivers and waterways, flowing into the sea where it quickly becomes salinated and useless in terms of water conservation.
In the name of development, local governments are neglecting traditional water conservation and irrigation facilities, and laying concrete over more areas that could have been used to store water. This will cause flooding during the rainy season and water shortages in the dry season.
The general public has also become used to low water rates and do not view water as a resource, and too much groundwater is being extracted. The nation’s water resources are being depleted at a greater rate than ever before.
The problem with the government is that its departments recognize that things are falling apart, but each believes it is the only one with the solution. There is no coordination, with each agency proceeding as it sees fit.
If all the government can do is ask the public to conserve water during the dry season, these departments have clearly failed in their duty.
The reason the nation suffers from water shortages is that the malfunctioning state machinery does not think long term.
Wang Jieh-jiuh is an associate professor of architecture at Ming Chuan University.
Translated by Paul Cooper