Sunday, May 22, 2011

"Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink"

Hushan's Yucing valley before it was dug out to make way for the highly controversial Hushan Dam.

"Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink" said Coleridge in 'The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere.' With the recent day spell we've been having in Taiwan; and is always the case when we experience one; talk of the need for new reservoirs comes to the fore in the media. "Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink" becomes the cry.

Typically the argument goes that Taiwan doesn't have sufficient reservoirs for its needs and there are volumes of wasted water pointlessly flowing down rivers from the mountains into the ocean. All that is needed is to build more dams and solve the problem.

Fresh water flowing into the sea is seen as wasteful and no thought is given to its critical role in maintaining vitally important estuarine ecosystems. The dust problem on the lower reaches of the Jhoushui River is conveniently forgotten. This dust-bowl situation in Changhua and Yunlin Counties has been created by the damming of the Jhoushui River in its middle course leaving the wide floodplain of the lower reaches dry and dusty with little water at the mercy of fierce coastal winds.

The dusty desolate lower reaches of the Jhoushui River on the border of Changhua and Yunlin Counties. This dust-bowl situation on the river's wide floodplain is attributed to reduced volumes of water in the river's lower course due to damming in its the middle course.

The cost to the natural environment in the damming of rivers is massive and irreversible. A prime example is the tremendous damage to the Huben-Hushan area with the current construction of the Hushan Reservoir project. This project poses a direct threat to the future survival of Red-Listed animals and plants such as the Fairy Pitta, Taiwan pink dolphin and Begonia ravenii. In addition, the risk the dam poses to people living nearby has largely been pushed aside but after the recent Japanese quake and tsunami should we not take a renewed look at the wisdom of constructing a dam in a very unstable area near the Jiji fault; the epicenter of the huge September 1999 earthquake.

The Huben-Hushan forest being cleared for the Hushan Dam project. The area is listed internationally as an Important Bird Area (IBA) because it is globally the most important breeding area for the IUCN Red-Listed Fairy Pitta.

An interesting letter appeared in the Taipei Times on Tuesday by Lee Ken-cheng, director of Mercy on the Earth, Taiwan urging a closer look at the benefits of addressing the problem water leakage on existing reservoirs to increase reservoir effectiveness rather than building new reservoirs.

See New take on how to meet water needs is necessary in Tuesday's Taipei Times.

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