Sat, Aug 04, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Premier proposes reforestation

BATTLING EXPLOITATION To combat the soil erosion that caused mudslides brought on by Typhoon Toraji, the government plans to crack down on illegal betel nut crops and grow 10 million trees

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Premier Chang Chun-hsiung at a press conference yesterday announced he had ordered the Council of Agriculture to put an end to the exploitation of mountain slopes so as to prevent mudslides such as the devastating ones triggered by Typhoon Toraji earlier this week.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) proposed several measures yesterday to combat soil erosion responsible for mudslides in mountainous areas, including cracking down on illegal betel nut plantations.

"The government will put a strict ban on the illegal planting of betel nuts, eradicating all illegal betel nut crops," Chang told reporters yesterday.

"Let's clutch Taiwan's lands with the roots of trees and give the next generation a comfortable home," Chang said.

The premier blamed mudslides brought on by Typhoon Toraji on soil erosion on mountain slopes, caused by human activity such as illegal farming.

Chang asked the public yesterday to practice soil conservation and stop exploiting mountain slope land. In addition, the premier yesterday spelled out several relief efforts.

"The Cabinet will grow 10 million trees to help 5,600-hectares of avalanche area recover by 2004," Chang said.

"At the same time, we will also conduct reforestation efforts for 230,000 hectares of land, creating 400,000 days of work at a cost of NT$4.8 billion," he added.

Chang also said the government would encourage private landlords to participate in the government's reforestation project, allocating NT$530,000 per hectare over a 20 year period.

In addition, the Cabinet intends to replace 11,000 hectares of betel nut crops with other plants, Chang said.

Still, environmentalists remain concerned that the Cabinet's measures will not be enough to prevent mudslides from happening again.

Chen Chih-huang (陳希煌), chairman of the Council of Agriculture, yesterday rejected a proposal to use helicopters to seed mountainous areas as a way of preventing soil erosion.

Chen said that according to expert opinion, seeding projects in Nantou County failed to yield many plants. The Nantou project had cost NT$1.45 million per hectare.

Chen said reforestation efforts could be conducted without involving helicopters, at a much lower cost.

In addition, the agricultural official said the Cabinet-level agency had not ruled out the possibility of reclaiming land from betel nut farmers.

With regard to a proposal to relocate residents living in high-risk areas prone to mudslides, Chen Po-chih (陳博志), head of the Cabinet's special relief task force, reiterated yesterday that the plan should be well-thought-out before being implemented.

"The task force will take all factors into consideration, including the maintenance of the original culture and lifestyle of the residents and their employment situations," Chen said.

Though Chen said the Cabinet would be cautious and deliberate in its relocation efforts, the agricultural council said 16 villages urgently needed to be moved.

According to the council's survey, four of the 16 villages are at risk to mudslides, while the other 12 are prone to landslides.

Eleven of the villages are located in Nantou County, two in Hualien County, one in Yunlin County and one each in Taichung City and County.

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