High-tech to aid land planning

REMOTE SENSING: As satellite technology develops, projections of future changes to landforms can expand from a few decades to several centuries, experts said yesterday


Fri, Jul 09, 2004 - Page 2

National land-use planning can be carried out more effectively by adopting advanced technologies, National Science Council (NSC) Chairman Wu Maw-kuen (吳茂昆) said yesterday.

In the wake of devastating floods from last week's Typhoon Mindulle, researchers said the time has come to review existing land use policies. At a convocation meeting organized by Academia Sinica yesterday, Wu said that the adoption of high-tech tools could help Taiwan implement strategies to use land wisely.

Wu said that the time scale for scientific forecasting could be extended to 200 years or even 500 years from the current outer limit of several decades.

Taking ROCSAT-2, the nation's second satellite, as an example, Wu said that remote sensing technologies enabled officials to take highly detailed pictures of affected areas.

"After our next satellite, ROCSAT-3, is launched, further data useful to weather forecasting will be collected," Wu said.

Wu said much damage from natural disasters could be avoided if risk assessment of building and public works projects was done carefully.

"For example, we built many detention ponds, reservoirs and facilities to drain water from low-lying land inside Tainan Science Park. It remained unaffected even after torrential rains recently," Wu said.

Wu suggested that development is a factor leading to environmental deterioration. He said his hometown in Yuli, Hualien County, was one of undeveloped villages at high altitudes. During the typhoon, no serious damage was reported despite abnormal rainfall.

Chen Yueh-fong (陳玉峰), president of the Taiwan Academy of Ecology, said yesterday that a comprehensive survey of mountainous areas should be carried out immediately.

"We have to know which damaged areas can no longer be restored, so people should avoid living there anymore," Chen said.

Chen said that affected areas remained vulnerable to damage from heavy rains and that people should be prepared to face similar tragedies in the future.

As of yesterday, the storm's death toll had reached 26 fatalities, and Council of Agriculture statistics showed that typhoon-related losses of agricultural crops and facilities had reached NT$4.23 billion.

To prevent the spread of disease in disaster areas, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) ordered its local bureaus to clean up storm debris as soon as possible. As of yesterday the EPA's local environmental bureaus in disaster areas had collected 21,000 tonnes of household waste and 24,000 tones of sludge.

According to the Central Weather Bureau yesterday, heavy rains are still possible today in northern Taiwan. The bureau has faced criticism for its failure to predict rainfall precisely in different parts of the island.

Yeh Tien-chiang (葉天降), director of the agency's forecasting center, said yesterday that the bureau would need time to improve its weather forecasting scientifically by adopting more advanced technologies.