The Cabinet is considering expanding the area covered by the fallow project to solve water shortages in the counties of Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Miaoli, Premier Yu shyi-kun said yesterday.
"The government cannot sit and do nothing before the monsoon season starts in May," Yu said while inspecting the Shihmen Dam in Taoyuan. "I will know Tuesday whether it's advisable and feasible to expand the fallow project."
The project, which began on March 1, covers 14,600 hectares of rice fields in the irrigation areas of Shihmen, Taoyuan County, and the Touchien river in Hsinchu County.
The program is designed to address the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park's water shortages.
The Cabinet is considering expanding it to cover another 26,000 hectares of farmland in the Tachun irrigation area in Taoyuan County to save an additional 900,000 tonnes of water daily.
During the inspection, the premier was accompanied by Cabinet Secretary-General Lee Ying-yuan (李應元), Minister of Economic Affairs Christine Tsung (宗才怡), Chairman of the Cabinet's Council of Agriculture Fan Cheng-chung (范振宗), National Science Council Chairman Wei Che-ho (魏哲和), and Cabinet spokesman Chuang Suo-hang (莊碩漢).
The water level at the Shihmen Dam has plummeted to 36 percent of its capacity, its lowest level this year.
While considering the expansion of the fallow project, Yu also called on the public to economize on the use of water.
To prepare for the production of artificial rain, Yu said, the Water Conservancy Agency (水利處) has set up 15 ground stations in Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Miaoli counties for the burning of silver iodide -- the chemical used to stimulate rainfall.
"If the amount of cloud is sufficient, we may start the [rain] production process on Tuesday and ask the air force to help sprinkle dry ice in the air," he said.
The premier also instructed dam managers to step up efforts to clear the silt at the bottom of the dam during the dry season.
"While the dam's total capacity is 2.7 billion m3, the silted area accounts for 460 million m3, or about 20 percent," Yu said.
The premier said it may take about 10 years to remove the silt at the current annual clean-up rate.
To solve the water shortages once and for all, Yu said, the government will complete the final phase of the Paoshan Reservoir in 2004.
Yu added that the Cabinet will include the development and management of water resources in its six-year national infrastructure project.
"I hope to see the completion of the [water-resource] proposal within a month from the Council for Economic Planning and Development (經建會)," Yu said.
Yu also restated his determination to find out why it took so long for government officials to become aware of the water shortage.
Taoyuan Commissioner Chu Li-lun (
"I don't understand why the government failed to take action sooner to address the drought," he said.
Fan of the Council of Agriculture also criticized the Cabinet.
"Why did it wait until March 1 to begin the fallow project?" Fan asked. "How do you expect me to explain to farmers why the Cabinet favors the industrial sector over agriculture?"