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Magazine survey finds Taiwan environmentally fragile

2010/03/11 19:18:19

Taipei, March 11 (CNA) Taiwan's soil has become even more fragileand vulnerable to natural disasters since the onslaught of TyphoonMorakot last August, according to a report carried in the latestissue of CommonWealth Magazine.

The Chinese-language business monthly has had staff posted insouthern Taiwan since last December to examine major rivers in theKaohsiung-Pingtung area, which bore the brunt of Morakot'sdevastation.

Lin Hsing-fei, a CommonWealth editorial writer, wrote in thereport that the typhoon that battered southern Taiwan with strongwinds and torrential rain Aug. 7-9, 2009, brought down from higherground more than 1.2 billion cubic meters of soft sediment such assand, silt and mud.

According to Lin, more than 51,200 hectares of land -- twice thearea of Taipei City -- collapsed in Morakot-triggered flooding.

Hsieh Meng-lung, a part-time assistant professor at NationalTaiwan University's (NTU's) Department of Geology specialized inriver evolution, was quoted in the report as saying that Taiwan ismade of fragmented geological formations.

"There is almost no safe place in Taiwan, " Hsieh said, addingthat the Laonong River in the mountains of Kaohsiung County areespecially fragile and susceptible to landslides.

The CommonWealth report said the Executive Yuan's post-Morakotreconstruction committee commissioned Chen Hung-yu, an NTU professor,to lead a 75-member team to monitor all of the rivers and streams inthe disaster zones to assess whether the 144 tribal settlements inthe region were still safe to live.

Initial survey results show that the amount of sediment inTaiwan's rivers almost tops world records. As Taiwan is relativelyyoung in terms of geological formation, its soil is generally softand vulnerable to flooding and mudslides, the report said.

Commenting on the report, Lee Hung-yuan, an NTU civil engineeringprofessor, said that a huge amount of silt and mud brought down byMorakot remains stuck in mountainous regions and that southern Taiwanis expected to face mudflows and other disasters when typhoons anddownpours strike the area in the years to come.

Chen Chen-chuan, deputy chief executive of the post-Morakotreconstruction committee, said the calamity wrought byMorakot-triggered flooding and mudslides to eastern and southernTaiwan's environment and ecology is unprecedented and beyondimagination.

Today, he said, a single spring rain can wreak havoc in theMorakot-battered regions.

In the face of Taiwan's environmental degradation and ecologicalsensitivity, Chen said, the public and private sectors should work inconcert and race against the time to complete rehabilitation andreconstruction work ahead of the typhoon season.

"We should redouble our efforts on all fronts, including disasterprevention and avoidance, as well as reconstruction, and shouldrespect nature and know how to interact with typhoons and variousother climate challenges," he added.

(By Oscar Wu and Sofia Wu)