Wed, Jan 30, 2013 - Page 4 News List

Interior minister Lee warns of future water shortages, food and energy crises

Staff writer, with CNA

A shortage of water will hit by 2030 due to a serious buildup of silt in the nation’s reservoirs, Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) said yesterday.

The capacity of the 50 reservoirs has decreased over the years due to severe silt buildup and by 2030 will further decrease to a degree that will hardly be able to sustain the nation’s 23 million people, Lee said. The silt buildup poses a great challenge, he said.

For instance, the amount of silt in the Shihmen Reservoir has reached 100 million tonnes, he said. If all the trucks needed to carry away the silt were lined up, they would circle the Earth seven times and the transportation costs would reach NT$100 billion (US$3.3 billion), which is not feasible, he said.

A severe flood strikes the nation every two years and a severe drought every nine years, Lee said.

In addition, Taiwan may be facing a food and energy crisis in the next 30 years, a crisis that Lee attributed to a warming planet and increasing global population, coupled with the nation’s reliance on other countries for resources.

Taiwan is a heavy consumer of energy and water and yet utilities rates are low, Lee said. A rational discussion on making rates more reasonable has not occured because of political factors, he said.

In a similarly paradoxical issue, the government has to spend a lot of money to preserve the nation’s shoreline, which has been damaged by heavy use of groundwater by the agricultural and fish farming sectors, and yet the costs of such conservation far outweigh the economic benefits, Lee said.

The nation needs to hold rational discussions on these issues and undertake smart planning to brace itself for all the challenges ahead, he said.

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