Thu, Apr 25, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Officials warn of more drought measures

WATER SHORTAGE As the nation's worst drought in over two decades begins to bite, officials warned that many areas relatively unaffected will soon face cutbacks

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Facing the worst drought in over two decades, additional emergency measures are expected in early May, according to the Water Resources Agency (WRA, 水利署).

"It's the worst drought to hit Taiwan in 20 years, and we are therefore considering declaring drought emergencies in other areas by the end of this month," Chen Shen-hsien (陳伸賢), WRA spokesman and deputy director, told the Taipei Times yesterday.

Chen said that an emergency inter-departmental meeting in Taichung on April 28 would decide the necessity of stricter emergency measures in places where the first stage of water rationing has been implemented. The decision will be based on the long-term rainfall forecast of the Central Weather Bureau.

Currently, places implementing first stage water rationing include Miaoli, Chiayi and Taipei City .

"We believe it will soon be necessary for places presently unaffected in Western Taiwan to impose first-stage water rationing," Chen told the Taipei Times.

Eastern Taiwan, which relies largely on the tourism industry, should remain relatively unaffected by future drought plans, as the water supply remains abundant, Chen said.

KMT legislators, including Her Jyh-huei (何智輝) and Lin Yi-shih (林益世), yesterday urged the Council of Agriculture (COA) to force farmers to let their fields lie fallow to ensure water supplies to families and industry.

Responding to legislators, COA Vice Chairman Lee Jen-chyun (李健全) said the idea had to be evaluated by the WRA first.

Chen told the Taipei Times that it was unnecessary to let fields lie fallow because the peak irrigation demand period was almost over.

Water resources officials said that the drought this year was much worse than Taiwan's last major drought in 1993, when the Tsengwen Reservoir (曾文水庫), one of southern Taiwan's major reservoirs, was nearly parched.

Average rainfall from January to April this year was only 30 percent of the average for that interval. Major reservoirs, including the Shihmen Dam (石門水庫) in Taoyuan County, are at less than 20 percent capacity.

Officials said that when the drought ends, hopefully in May or June, statistics will indicate whether this year was worse than the drought of 1979, regarded as the worst on record.

As a front approached yesterday, a two-hour cloud-seeding project was carried out at 13 stations. The best result, 10mm of rainfall, was reached at the Mingte Dam (明德水庫) in Miaoli County.

Yesterday's rains, however, failed to ease the drought.

Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday sought to emphasize water conservation by inspecting the Feitsui Reservoir (翡翠水庫) in Taipei County, one of Taipei's main sources of water.

Wearing a life vest, Ma took a boat to inspect the pitifully parched riverbeds of the funnel-shaped dam at the reservoir, where workers were seizing the chance to remove garbage and silt, which accumulates on riverbeds.

"The central government should have addressed the water crisis long ago," said Ma, adding that the reservoir's water level is dropping 40cm per day.

Although the first stage of water rationing was imposed in Taipei City on Tuesday, officials of the Feitsui Reservoir Department said the measures have done little to solve the problem.

Water levels at the dam, 136m, will soon approach a record low. In September 1993, the level fell to 133m. Officials said the dam was 150 million tonnes short of water, as compared to last year.

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