Flooding in southern Taiwan caused by Tropical Storm Kong-Rey prompted Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers to criticize the government’s flood-prevention efforts, while some DPP government heads took issue with Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源).
DPP lawmakers called on the central government to do more to boost water drainage and flood prevention work.
The DPP caucus said the Water Resources Agency’s (WRA) program for flood prevention and water drainage in easily flooded areas, which began in March 2006, will wrap up next year. The program covered rivers, local drainage and business-related seawalls.
The eight-year program was originally budgeted at NT$80 billion (US$2.67 billion), but the inclusion of sewer and agricultural drainage improvements pushed the budget up to NT$110 billion, the caucus said, adding that the ministries of economic affairs and the interior and the Council of Agriculture were all involved in the project.
DPP caucus secretary-general Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) said the latest budget plans for the next fiscal year show the WRA only proposed NT$14 billion for drainage improvement and flood prevention, while if the Ministry of the Interior’s sewage treatment budget and the council’s budget were added in, the total would be NT$23 billion.
DPP Caucus whip Gao Jih-peng (高志鵬) said that since the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) returned to power in 2008, government funding for drainage improvements and flood prevention has declined every year. Gao said the KMT administration had not made flood prevention one of its priorities.
“The murky chain of responsibility and lack of funding is rendering the program ineffective,” he said.
DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said that when the DPP was in power, funding for all of the central government’s flood prevention programs — including the Keelung River improvement program, the watershed area improvement program for the Shihmen Reservoir (石門水庫) and its program for flood prevention and water drainage in easily flooded areas — came to NT$170 billion.
When Ma first ran for president he announced a plan for 12 “i-Taiwan” construction projects and called the former DPP administration’s annual NT$10 billion flood-prevention budget insufficient, but his administration now allocated just NT$1.4 billion, Chen added.
Meanwhile, Chiayi County and Greater Tainan leaders had some sharp words for Lee, who on Thursday had said that several county and city governments in southern Taiwan were too passive about disaster prevention.
Chiayi County Commissioner Helen Chang (張花冠) said “flood prevention could not be accomplished by flapping one’s lips.”
She became very emotional as she accompanied Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) on an inspection tour of heavily flooded areas. At one point it look liked she was about to kneel in front of him as she said: “Should I kneel down to show how active I am [in disaster prevention work’]?”
Greater Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) said Lee did not know what he was talking about.
“The flooding in southern Taiwan is very bad, and it is very painful for the head of a county or mayor to witness the pains of their residents. It is not something our superiors in Taipei will be able to understand,” Lai said.
“If I were Minister Lee, I would be concerned about whether local governments needed any help in solving problems, and not point fingers and say local governments were not doing enough,” he said.