Mon, May 13, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Water-resources officials talk about new reservoirs

THE OPTIONS Now that Taiwan is afflicted by a full-on drought, academics, politicians and researchers are looking at innovative ways to increase water supplies

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

As the drought continues to deplete water in Taiwan's reservoirs, political figures, lawmakers, water managers and experts are rushing to find innovative ways to increase water supplies. When talking about increasing water supplies, most of them soon discovered that debating the necessity of building new reservoirs was inevitable.

"Abandoning the idea of building new large reservoirs is a world trend. Building more dams is like drinking poison to quench a thirst," DPP Legislator Chiu Chuang-chin (邱創進) said at the Legislative Yuan on May 9.

Chiu argued that water officials should adopt innovative ideas, such as building underground reservoirs (地下水庫), to avoid environmental deterioration caused by the construction of dams.

Chiu objected to building new reservoirs in a bid to force water resources managers to review existing policies.

When the nation is not experiencing any difficulties, more than 40 reservoirs, which can store 4.2 billion tonnes of water, supply 11.6 million tonnes of water per day.

Under the circumstances, the Water Resource Agency is planning to build at least six new large reservoirs beginning in 2005. The agency estimates that supplies from five of the six reservoirs will increase the amount of water available by 16 percent when they are completed in 2014. The capacity of the sixth reservoir has not yet been assessed.

The agency's intention to build six new reservoirs, costing NT$13 billion, was criticized by PFP Legislator Chou Hsi-wei (周錫偉) and others on May 6 at the Legislative Yuan. Chou said that the reservoirs would not solve the existing problems because the first dam would not be completed until 2008.

For water-resources management officials, seeking new water supply sources is more important than cutting demand or raising prices.

KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) urged President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) on May 1 to countermand his promise to the residents of Meinung township (美濃), Kaohsiung County. In July of 2000, when President Chen visited Meinung, he said that the controversial Meinung Dam project would not be built during his presidency.

Lien argued that building more dams would ensure reliable water supplies, saying the Meinung Dam project was put aside due to the DPP government's ignorance of water-resources management.

Before the DPP became the ruling party in 2000, the KMT-led central government encouraged reservoir construction. The project in Meinung township has encountered strong local opposition since the early 1990s.

Controversial issues pertaining to environmental justice, Hakka cultural conservation, ecological preservation and geological threats made it impossible for the KMT-led government to complete the project.

Anti-dam activists argued that the dam was being built not because it could solve water shortages for local residents in southern Taiwan, but because of demand from the industrial sector.

Although the economics minstry projects for building six reservoirs exclude the Meinung Dam project, legislators and anti-dam activists have objected to the projects.

"Contradictory policies should be reviewed," DPP Legislator Tsao Chi-hung (曹啟鴻), from Pingtung County, said at a press conference on May 9 at the Legislative Yuan.

Tsao, who established the Pingtung?based Blue Tunkang River Conservation Association (藍色東港溪保育協會), also urged the government to back underground reservoir projects.

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