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Sun, Aug 05, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Chen visits typhoon-torn Chiayi

RESOURCEFULNESS Gravel from recent landslides, which currently has residents cut off from governmental relief efforts, might finance the area's long-term recovery

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

President Chen Shui-bian went to Nantou County's Yufeng village yesterday to see the effects of landslides in the area.

PHOTO: CHEN CHENG-CHANG, TAIPEI TIMES

Six days after Typhoon Toraji brought death and destruction to Taiwan, a visit by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to one of the severely affected areas yesterday highlighted political and legal difficulties that the government will face in its efforts both to facilitate recovery from the disaster and to prevent similar future catastrophes.

Chen flew aboard a helicopter to the mountainous villages of Chiayi County's Alishan township, where some 800 residents remained cut off by roads blocked by landslides.

Tearful residents petitioned Chen for an immediate clean-up of gravel left by mudslides, which piled up along local river banks to heights of more than 10m during the typhoon, creating a further potential hazard in the event of more mudslides.

They also called upon the government to recycle the gravel as construction materials to enable the county to sell the gravel to fund local reconstruction work thereby helping to expedite its recovery.

The law, however, forbids the sale of gravel obtained from certain areas in the vicinity of -- among other places -- rivers and bridges, according to Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Hsin-yi (林信義), who accompanied Chen during the inspection tour. But Chen said that, "If the law is not flexible enough and takes time to revise, the government could propose makeshift policies to facilitate the project."

Arriving later in the same area, Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) also backed the proposal.

Lu said that, as head of the presidential office's consultative committee on science and technology, she had been informed of Japanese technologies to recycle gravel to make household tiles. She said Taiwan should find ways to make good use of the gravel from the mudslides.

A soil and water conservation engineer, Debbie Weng (鄭麗瓊), told the Taipei Times that the government should start constructing what she called "detention pounds" at the confluence points of rivers prone to mudslides in order to capture gravel from the mudslides.

"The gravel can then be further filtered and recycled to become marketable as construction material," Weng said.

On Friday, Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) had announced plans to combat the soil erosion that causes mudslides by cracking down on all illegal betel nut farms.

But DPP legislative whip Lin Feng-hsi (林豐喜) yesterday objected, saying, "The crackdown should be limited to those betel nut plantations in the high-risk areas prone to mudslides."

Echoing Lin's views, another DPP legislator, Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) from Nantou County said, "The Cabinet has stigmatized the betel nut farmers, who shouldn't take the blame for the destruction caused by the typhoon."

Tsai said that betel nut planting was just one of the causes of soil erosion and mudslides, and that he hoped that the Cabinet would conduct a further investigation before proposing measures that risked "sacrificing betel nut farmers' rights."

Lin said that the party's legislative caucus had scheduled a meeting with Chang and Council of Agriculture chairman Chen Chih-huang (陳希煌) next week to discuss the matter.

In addition, head of the Cabinet's typhoon reconstruction task force, Chen Chin-huang (陳錦煌) yesterday estimated reconstruction costs at NT$10 billion, adding that the tax redistribution funds which the legislature has agreed to allocate for the purpose would probably be insufficient.

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