The Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday that he would promote large scale forestation of fallow farmland in Chiayi and Tainan if he is elected next year.
In a visit to Tainan County's Wusanto Reservoir (烏山頭水庫), Ma said he proposed the idea as a measure to help the country's carbon dioxide emissions meet Kyoto Protocol standards.
The Kyoto protocol states that the amount of carbon dioxide emissions of industrialized countries between next year and 2012 should be lower than their emission in 1999 by at least 5 percent.
A study by the Environmental Protection Administration has suggested that the 11.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted per capita annually in Taiwan in 2005 ranked third-highest in the world.
"Unless we change our ecological environment on a large scale, it will be impossible for us to meet the standards," Ma said. "Forestation is the best solution."
If Taiwan cannot meet the standards in the future then we will suffer global economic sanctions, he said.
Ma said about 220,000 hectares out of Taiwan's 970,000 hectares of farmland is now fallow, saying that he would like to create 50,000 hectares of forest in Tainan and Chiayi.
He said that such a forestation plan is an important and positive strategy for the nation in the next three decades to deal with issues such as water conservation and land utilization.
"Preventing floods by water control is a long term job. It requires massive manpower, material resources and sound planning," Ma said.
He said the plan is expected to cost between NT$6 billion (US$183 million) and NT$8 billion and would reduce the nation's carbon dioxide emissions by 140 million tonnes per year.
During his visit Ma also paid tribute to the statue of Yoichi Hatta, the late Japanese civil engineer who planned and oversaw the construction in the 1920s of the irrigation system that spreads across the plains of Chiayi and Tainan.
Ma lauded Hatta's contribution, saying that the completion of the irrigation project had helped improve the rice crop in Chiayi and Tainan.
Meanwhile in related news, Ma's Democratic Progressive Party counterpart Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) met with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), running mate Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and campaign manager Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭) separately yesterday.
When approached for comments yesterday morning, Hsieh declined to give details of what they talked about.