Wed, Oct 14, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Towns battle dust storms brought by northeast monsoon

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Every year when the northeastern monsoon blows in late autumn, townships located along downstream stretches of the Jhuoshuei (濁水), Dajia (大甲) and Da-an (大安) rivers tend to suffer from serious dust storms. This year has been no different.

Among the hardest-hit towns are Yunlin County’s Siluo (西螺), Erlun (二崙), Lunbei (崙背) and Mailiao (麥寮) townships located near the Jhuoshuei River estuary and Taichung County’s Dajia Township (大甲) on the estuary of the Dajia and Da-an rivers.

“The dust storm problem is especially serious in riverside towns,” Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬) said.

The county government has sponsored forums at elementary schools in those townships to teach schoolchildren how to cope with dust storm damage, Su said.

Hsukuang Elementary School in Erlun and Fengjung Elementary School in Lunbei are among the hardest-hit schools.

Lin Huang-jung (林煌榮), the principal at the Hsukuang school, said the school has had to spray water on its grounds a number of times every day during the northeastern monsoon season.

“All classroom windows facing north have to be closed when the seasonal winds blow,” Lin said. “Even then, our desks and chairs are often covered by dust.”

During breaks, schoolchildren play outdoors.

“We always remind them to wear face masks, but our words oftentimes fall on deaf ears,” Lin said.

Schoolchildren tend to return home with their outfits full of dust, the head of the school’s parent association said, and many students often complain about sore throats and irritated eyes.

Two strategies are being tested to counter dust storms: building forest wind breaks and building dams to raise water levels and so prevent winds from blowing up sand from dry riverbeds.

Officials from the Fourth River Basin Management Bureau, which is responsible for managing the Jhuoshuei River, said the bureau has launched a project to plant 7km of trees along the river’s northern bank in ­Changhua County and the southern bank in Yunlin County to shield the riverbed from the winds.

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