US visa group on its way
A delegation from the US Department of Homeland Security will soon visit Taiwan to evaluate the country’s bid for entry into the US Visa Waiver Program, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday. The ministry hopes the delegation would come to Taiwan “as soon as possible,” said Remus Chen (陳立國), deputy director-general of the Department of North American Affairs. The sooner the evaluation, the sooner Taiwanese passport holders would be exempt from needing visas for trips to the US, Chen said. He would not confirm speculation that the visit has been set for next month. Taiwanese Representative to the US Jason Yuan (袁健生) said in Washington that he expected the visit to take place as early as next month or in February.
Feitsui Reservoir 91% full
After steady rainfall in northern Taiwan since November, the Feitsui Reservoir (翡翠水庫) now holds enough water to supply greater Taipei until March next year, the Taipei Feitsui Reservoir Administration said yesterday. The administration said the water level yesterday was 166.9m, filling an effective 30.71 billion cubic meters of water storage capacity, with an effective storage rate of 91.52 percent. The current water level is 4.42m higher than the average of 162.49m, with 38.2 million cubic meters more water in the reservoir than the average for this time of year. The second phase of the water supply improvement project for Banciao (板橋) and Sinjhuang (新莊) districts in New Taipei City (新北市) is scheduled to be finished in 2014, the administration said. It added that the two areas, which now depend on the Shihmen Reservoir (石門水庫) for their water, will then receive water from the Feitsui Reservoir.
Spoonbill numbers drop
The peak number of black-faced spoonbills migrating through southern Taiwan this year dropped by more than 200 from a year earlier, according to a survey conducted by a local conservation group. Taijiang National Park, located in Greater Tainan, said the last count of the year was taken by the group on Saturday and a peak number of 1,399 black-faced spoonbills was recorded. A total of 1,200 were seen in Tainan, 190 in Chiayi and nine in Greater Kaoh-siung. According to park officials, the data showed that spoonbill numbers this year peaked a month later than the peak of 1,671 recorded in November last year.
Miaoli helps with exchange
The Miaoli County Government will sponsor less privileged students to participate in an exchange program with a sister school in Japan. Five students and two teachers each from Houlong Elementary School in Miaoli County and Nakaminami Elementary School in Japan’s Fukuoka Prefecture would take part in the annual exchange program, the Ministry of Education said, adding that participants would stay with host families to gain a deeper understanding of the local culture. The two institutions formally forged sister-school ties earlier this month after some students from Houlong Elementary took part in the Asia-Pacific Children’s Convention in Fukuoka in July during a two-week exchange. Chang Kuo-en (張國恩), principal of Houlong Elementary, said the students managed to communicate with their counterparts from other countries in Mandarin, English and Japanese and formed close links with their host families.