Mon, Sep 10, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Facts on flood prevention required

By Yang Yung-nane 楊永年

Some people blameD the flood disaster in southern Taiwan since Aug. 23 on the failure of flood prevention infrastructure. Their reason was that although the government has spent NT$430 billion (US$13.97 billion) over the years on prevention, flooding still occurs.

Although government officials have said that the actual amount spent is NT$187 billion, that does not answer the question of whether the infrastructure has failed or not.

The phrase “failed flood prevention” has become the focus of a war of words and the center of political conflict. If people cannot decide whether flood prevention is a failure or a success, they will never be able to improve it.

Perhaps the central and local governments could publicize the following information to clarify the issue so that people can end the war of words.

First, the government should publicize all flood prevention plans. For severely flooded areas, it should show which of the areas have been involved in flood prevention planning and which have not, and explain why areas that have been included in a flood prevention plan continue to be flooded.

With regard to the areas prone to flooding that are not included in a flood prevention plan, the public needs to know why no preventive measures have been taken.

Second, the government should systematically organize flood prevention plans.

In the past, such large-scale flooding seldom occurred in southern Taiwan, so a more reasonable way to deal with the issue would be for the central and local governments to work together and divide the responsibilities between them.

The ideal approach to reorganizing previous flood prevention plans would be to examine different areas — prone to flooding or not — to see what efforts have been made by the central and local governments, and provide comprehensive information about the effectiveness of those efforts.

Third, the government should acknowledge that there are limitations to flood prevention technology.

Science and technology certainly play vital roles in curbing flooding, but there are always limitations. Therefore, it is essential to let the public know of the difficulties the prevention plans face, thus facilitating breakthroughs and improvements.

Fourth, flood prevention information should be easily accessible by the public.

If the government discloses all flood prevention plans, but they are not easily accessible, it will not be very different from not publicizing the information at all.

To make flood prevention information public-friendly is not difficult: The government could set up a dedicated flood prevention Web site devoted to sorting all plans in a clear and easily understandable manner, perhaps divided into central, municipal and township governments or into the different drainage areas.

Then members of the public and experts would be able to access the information relevant to them.

This approach would also be a way of encouraging public participation and supervision of the government.

Given that information about flood prevention is not sufficiently comprehensive, systematic or public-friendly, it is difficult to judge whether flood prevention has failed or not.

The only thing that can be said for certain is that the distribution of flood prevention-related information has failed.

If people want to build a sustainable future for flood prevention in Taiwan they need more scientific evidence, less political jargon and more information combined with rational debate and dialogue.

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