Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Policy of Ignoring Wake Up Calls and Unanswered Questions?

I'm sure the 'powers that be' in Taiwan do know where Taiwan is situated. The Pacific Rim, that big ring of fire. It's a well know fact that Taiwan is geologically unstable. Just yesterday morning we all felt the shaking of a 6.6 quake off southeast Taiwan. Shakes and quakes are common here. Today there was a 4.1 in Taitung. Yesterday we had that big 6.6 and the day before we had a 4.7 and a 4.4 on the east coast. The big 7.6 921 Earthquake was just ten years ago.

In addition to the earthquakes we get several typhoons each summer. Last summer Typhoon Morakot left over 600 fatalities in its wake. Poor land management policies contributed greatly to many of the landslides that buried entire villages. Typhoons and quakes are a pretty deadly pair. Surely we know by now that we don't have a very good track record of trying to "manage" nature.

On Sunday afternoon Taiwan's natural fury once again demonstrated what she thinks of our human efforts to tame her. An entire hillside rolled across the No.3 National Freeway between Taipei and Keelung. The entire freeway is closed. This was no small landslide. The entire hillside went 'walkabout' and repositioned itself right across the freeway. Don't take my word for it. Take a look at the Taipei Times photo.

Now, let's move down to central-west Taiwan. Right near the little town of Jiji, the epicentre of the big 7.6 921 Earthquake, the 'powers that be' are merrily constructing the Hushan Reservoir. Yeah, I know you've read the posts on our blog about how the Hushan Reservoir has destroyed much of the most important breeding area on the planet for the threatened Fairy Pitta and a host of other endangered and supposedly protected Red List species that have lived there for time eternal. OK, enough about birds and back to the story.

We're building a big reservoir in the middle of an area highly prone to earthquakes and typhoons. Is that wise? I mean this dam is sitting just off the notorious Jiji fault that showed what it can do in a big 7.6 rumba ten years ago. The 'powers that be' are saying have no fear. But should we? Could there be problems with the mighty Hushan Dam?

Well, we asked the former commissioner of the Environmental Impact Assessment Committee (EIA) who chaired a series of meetings on proposed changes to the Hushan Reservoir plan what he thought about questions on the reservoir's stability. He told us that he with other commissioners ordered the cessation of the project until questions such as this, and the many others that had never been fully or accurately answered during the course of the initial review, were answered. He went on to tell us that the response to their order by officials of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) was to tell the developer to ignore the commissioners (despite the fact that the EPA is the secretariat to the commission) and go ahead and build the dam.

Scary to say the least. Can Taiwan really get by on a policy of ignoring wake up calls and unanswered questions and damning the consequences if a quick dollar can be made? Time will surely tell. If I was a betting man my money would be on "they can't !"

Huge hillside collapses, covers Formosa Freeway
Workers scramble to dig out landslide

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