The government is set to expand the scope of water rationing and prepare rain-inducing measures as it struggles to tackle the issue of dwindling water reserves.Taiwan is now in its worse drought in eight years. This is part of a long-term trend, as I noted in a post a couple of months ago. The Straits Times has a longer discussion -- the issue is of course the way humans are heating the global climate:
Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥) said yesterday that the government would impose a second phase of water rationing in parts of New Taipei City (新北市), Taoyuan and Hsinchu counties on Wednesday next week and extend the measure to Miaoli County, Greater Taichung, northern Changhua City, Greater Tainan and Greater Kaohsiung on May 23.
The first phase of water rationing was implemented on April 1 in northern and central Taiwan.
.....The last time Taiwan rationed water was in 2004, at the height of its worst drought. It lasted 21/2 years and affected the whole island.Of course, President Ma mouthed the usual nice words about Taiwan needing a long-term plan for droughts and floods, but in fact during the Chen Administration the DPP fielded a comprehensive land and water planning regime which the KMT controlled legislature gutted and turned into just another developmentalist program for spraying more concrete across Taiwan's landscapes.
Dr Wang Chung-ho, a research fellow at the Institute of Earth Sciences at Taiwan's top think-tank Academia Sinica, told The Straits Times: "We can't tell how long this one may last. But we're worried it may surpass even that previous drought." The phenomenon is likely due to global warming, he added, intensifying the frequency and severity of droughts in Taiwan over the past 40 years.
Ironically, Taiwan has one of the world's wettest climates, with about 2,500mm of rain a year on average. However, much of this flows right back into the ocean due to Taiwan's mountainous terrain and lack of water channels. Yet water tariffs remain unsustainably low.
In a commentary Tuesday (May 10), China Times said weather extremes caused by global warming are set to become the norm, yet Taiwanese are still "blissfully unaware" of the gravity of the situation.
"The government has named low birth rates as an issue of national security," said the daily. "The truth is, lack of water is a bigger problem than lack of people."
Water supply issues are intertwined with many other issues, from polluted rivers to land subsidence, but water is of course a key factor in Taiwan's attempt to increase its production of grain.
“The country's grain self-sufficiency rate now stands at 32 percent and the rate could be significantly raised to nearly 40 percent in 2020 by increasing domestic crop consumption,” said COA Minister Chen Wu-hsiung (陳武雄) yesterday in Taipei.Increasing grain production is an urgent necessity since rising petroleum prices over the long term gravely threaten Taiwan's food security. In 2008 when oil hit $120 a barrel Taiwan stopped importing sweet corn from the US and sourced it from China. Since China is also a food deficit country, this is obviously not sustainable. Long-term projections for climate change show that the grain producing regions of the central and western US are going to suffering from permanent drought by mid century (for example) and Taiwan can expect further declines in rain. Preparation now is urgently necessary.
In order to achieve the goal, the COA is drafting measures to bring more fallow fields back into cultivation, Chen added.
Chen made the comments during a conference aimed at developing solutions to Taiwan's “food deficit” and new approaches to food security in the country.
Water policy is also intimately connected to the construction-industrial state that has fueled domestic politics and KMT power for the last fifty years. A forward-looking DPP policy in this area can address both its political inferiority at the local level and help Taiwan as the world moves forward into its fossil fuel-driven Saharan future.
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