Wed, Mar 19, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan on stage at water forum

FLOOD PREVENTION The 3rd World Water Forum in Kyoto continued as Taiwanese delegates shared their experiences of flooding with the global community


Taiwan gave the international community a lesson in tackling urban flooding yesterday as more than 170 countries gathered at the 3rd World Water Forum in the Japanese city of Kyoto.

The Water Resources Agency (WRA) presented three reports on flood mitigation in urban areas at the triennial international meeting, offering valuable suggestions taken from past experience.

WRA Director Hwang Jing-san (黃金山), leader of Taiwan's 30-strong delegation to the forum, said the flood mitigation strategy in Taipei deserved to be heard by a wider audience because it has been adopted by a national capital.

Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源), a civil engineering professor at National Taiwan University, concluded at a session entitled "Flood Mitigation and Urban Areas" that Taipei's experience demonstrates that non-engineering strategies deserved further notice because people could not only rely on new technology to control water.

Lee said those strategies included building detention ponds (small dam created to hold back an excessive amount of rain fall in a short period of time), revising land-use regulations and establishing a sound flood-insurance system.

Lee said that Taipei has been victim to a series of floods since 1997. Lee said, however,that Typhoon Nari in 2001 exposed the country's shortcomings in flood prevention.

"We would like to share our know-how on flood-warning systems, but also hopefully learn about non-engineering strategies from others," Lee said.

Lee Tim-hau (李天浩) from the civil engineering department of NTU, said that improving the accuracy of typhoon predictions was an important goal.

"We believe that a transnational collaborative mechanism on rainfall precipitation is needed not only by Taiwan but also the Philippines and Vietnam," Lee said.

The WRA's presentation interested participants, especially those from nations with similar environmental problems to Taiwan.

F. L. Bussink from the Netherlands' Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, said in his country people were told to believe in engineering. Bussink added, however, that recent urban flooding in his country demonstrates that engineering is not a cure-all.

Bussink stressed the importance of reshaping old-fashioned engineering concepts and educating the public.

"All measures need political support. However, the government should tell people the truth," Bussink said.

DPP lawmaker Eugene Jao (趙永清), who attended the forum in Kyoto yesterday, said that Taiwan's active participation in the forum demonstrates the country's ambition to keep up with sustainable-development issues.

Hwang said that Taiwan is facing the same water challenges as others, such as increased flooding, water-supply shortages, ongoing development, worsening urbanization, over pumping of ground water and increased costs of maintaining water sources.

Hwang said, however, that participation in the forum was a good chance for Taiwan to review the problems that are unique to the country.

"For example, how could the sewer system in an industrialized country like Taiwan be so poor?" Hwang said.

In 2000, according to government statistics, the average sewer connection ratio in Taiwan was only 7.2 percent. Even in the Taipei metropolitan area, the ratio was only 48.

In Kaohsiung, the nation's second largest city, the ratio is 7.2 percent. In the rest of the country, the ratio is 0.6 percent.

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