Wed, Jul 14, 2004 - Page 4 News List

New engineering methods preserve land economically

INTEREST GROUPS The sites damaged by the 921 Earthquake held up very well compared to other sites damaged by Tropical Storm Mindulle

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Construction that adopts ecologically sound engineering methods preserves land more effectively than construction that relies heavily on solid concrete, Public Construction Commission (PCC) Vice Chair-man Kuo Ching-chiang (郭清江) said yesterday.

Tropical Storm Mindulle brought cumulative rainfall to the center and south of the country that ranged from 10cm to 210cm within only three days. According to Kuo, townships that experienced significant damage after the 921 Earthquake in 1999 did not suffer from similar disasters during recent floods.

"In Puli, Chungliao, Shuili and Luku in Nantou County and Kukeng in Yunlin County, we had no reports about damage resulting from the failure of flood-prevention construction using ecological engineering methods," Kuo said.

At a press conference held by legislators and environmentalists defending ecological engineering methods yesterday, pictures of several townships in central Taiwan taken after recent floods were displayed to the media. Some river embankments built of concrete were ruined by floods, but others using ecological engineering methods remained stable.

Kuo said environmentally friendly construction methods had been used on 3,000 hectares of mountain slopes in the last three years at a total cost of only NT$3 billion.

Kuo said that the PCC has been investigating these techniques' performance during the recent floods. He said that results so far indicate that in Taichung County's Wufeng township only three out of more than 60 sites on hillsides where these methods had been adopted were affected by the floods, and in Tungshih township only two out of about 150 sites using the methods had collapsed.

"Planting some flowers to beautify river embankments doesn't mean that ecological preservation is carefully considered in construction," Kuo said.

Democratic Progressive Party legislator Eugene Jao (趙永清) said that many recent criticisms of the PCC's promotion of ecological engineering methods could be attributed to a lack of understanding.

"The government has to review recent disasters from ecological perspectives," Jao said.

Tzeng Chyng-shyang (曾晴賢), an associate professor at National Tsing Hua University, said civil engineering might be improved if engineers take opportunities to learn the importance of ecological conservation.

Sam Lin (林聖崇), head of the Ecology Conservation Alliance, said criticism of the PCC's promotion of ecological engineering methods could be attributed to the uneasiness of interest groups that employ more conventional methods.

"We've seen too many examples of faulty public construc-tion. These sites are incapable of resisting floods and need to be rebuilt annually," Lin said.

Lin said environmentalists welcome new public construction adopting ecological engineering methods but would continuously monitor construction quality.

Some aggressive environmentalists even suggest that the government should stop building these projects in central Taiwan.

Lee Jin-hsing (李進興) of the Taiwan Environmental Information Association said that the group is urgently seeking the closure of the Central Cross-Island Highway, which has repeatedly collapsed during heavy rains.

"After the devastating 921 Earthquake, we environmentalists suggested the closure. But the government kept spending about NT$3 billion to repair it. All these efforts were obviously in vain," Lee said.

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