Friday, February 24, 2012

Moving the Legislature to Taichung: sensible?

Lin Chia-lung of the DPP had floated an interesting suggestion in the Taipei Times today: move the legislature to Taichung. I thought it was great; who will notice the extra gangsters in Taichung? Although I myself would have suggested Siberia....

Ok, I'll stop. But it just cries out for snark....

Seriously, though, the DPP has long proposed decentralizing the government out to the center and south as way one to compensate for Taiwan's grossly uneven regional development. Lin observes:
Even more important is the issue of rezoning national land. Taiwan has yet to address the problem of uneven development, which has caused differential development between the northern, central, southern and eastern areas, as well as an increasing urban-rural gap.
Lin also argues that the government is too close Taiwan's nuke plants in the north, and a nuclear melt-down could threaten governmental stability. He points out that the HSR makes travel to the north and south easy...
Also, legislators should be serving people throughout Taiwan, so the move to Greater Taichung would make sense. In addition, the Legislative Yuan only meets for about six months of the year and, with the exception of government officials who might have to go there twice a week to answer questions, legislators would not have to be tied to its location.
I should add that there is plenty of land out by the HSR station in Taichung that is not occupied and which would be perfect for a large government complex.

Meanwhile there is something totally representative of Taiwan in the little factoid he gives about the legislature:
The Legislative Yuan is currently located in the former grounds of a Japanese colonial-era high school. Apart from costing more than NT$100 million (US$3.38 million) in annual rent, its current location is actually illegal, as the grounds should be allocated for a school.
Thinking outside the box, Lin is.... Lin's nod at Fukushima was echoed in this commentary in the TT last year that argued for decentralizing the island away from the north.

The nukes are only one possible catastrophe that could whack Taipei. There's always the possibility of a killer quake hitting either the city or the nuke plants. This potential is assessed in this paper which reviews Taipei's quake history:
"...A large earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7 occurred in 1694. It caused large subsidence (less than 5 meters, with no available epicenter location) in the northwestern part of the Taipei Basin (Wang et al. 1994; Chan et al. 2007). During the 19th century, there were several earthquakes that caused considerable damage in the Taipei area. These destructive earthquakes included earthquakes in 1815 (M 6.5), 1853, 1860, 1865 (M 6.0), 1867 (M 7.0), 1881 (M 6.2), and 1893 (Hsu 1983; Tsai 1985; Cheng and Yeh 1989). The 1815 earthquake, which was located in present-day Shihdin, in the eastern corner of the Taipei Basin, was a relatively deep earthquake, which caused damage in Taipei City. The famous and delicate Longshan Temple totally collapsed during this earthquake. The 1867 earthquake, which occurred offshore of Keelung in northern Taiwan, caused a series of tsunamis and several hundred people drowned. In April 15 of 1909, an 80-km deep, M 7.3 earthquake occurred in the Taipei Basin with its epicenter at Chunghe. This earthquake caused 9 deaths, 51 people injured, 122 buildings collapsed and 1050 buildings damaged."
In addition to the quake problem, the riskiest dam in Taiwan is the Shihmen Dam in the hills south and west of Taipei which supplies water to the city. The China Post reported on it two years ago in an excellent piece on Taiwan's urgent reservoir problems (which would probably make a great article for someone). A dam collapse caused by quake or a super-typhoon may flood Taipei in a short period of time, and knock out water supplies all over the north. Far more remote is the possibility of renewed vulcanism in the Datun volcano group just north of the city, which are usually described as extinct but which experts generally describe as dormant.

The Shihmen Dam also highlights an issue that Lin touches on, because it impacts so many areas of national life: because Taiwan still has no integrated national land policy plan, it cannot address many issues from control of construction along rivers that causes reservoirs to silt up faster than planned to the relocation and decentralization of the government.
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les said...

How about Beijing? Seems to be the proper location for the government of the Republic of China...

fred said...

Amidst all the talk about disasters that have and might strike Taipei you forgot to mention the very serious earthquake that affected Taichung on 21 September 1999.

Michael Turton said...

I'm focusing on Taipei. it would be an odd earthquake that hit both cities!

Steve said...

Back in 1993 and before Taiwan's government went to a unicameral legislature, I attended a session of the provincial assembly which was located in Taichung, so the city does have a history of hosting what back then was called the Senate. Michael, does that building still exist?

Tom said...

Government-sponsored attempts to move the capital to another location usually result in waste and reductions in governmental efficiency.

Examples: Brazil: Rio-->Brasilia, Nigeria: Lagos-->Abuja, Turkey: Istanbul-->Ankara... and others.

何光煒 said...

Moving the legislature to Taichung is a neat idea, but the problem I see immediately is that the premier needs to go there often to give reports and basically be ganged up on by angry lawmakers. The premier needs to be geographically close to the president, so unless all of those offices are moved southward, it doesn't seem that feasible to me.

However, there are many, many other government institutions that could be moved, like the Judicial Yuan, Control Yuan, or any of the many agencies under the Executive Yuan.