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COA battles to promote sustainability through land resource conservation


2005-10-27 / Taiwan News, contributing writer / By Yang Jie

A series of typhoons that pummeled Taiwan this summer resulted in

mountainside resources should maintain public safety on the mountainsides
The strategy of sustainable use of mountain-
side resources should maintain public safety
on the mountainsides, conserve water and
land resources, and encourage rational use
of the land./Central News Agency

The strategy of sustainable use of mountainside resources should maintain public safety on the mountainsides, conserve water and land resources, and encourage rational use of the land./Central News Agencymajor property losses for local farmers and fishermen and highlighted the challenge the Council of Agriculture faces in protecting Taiwan's land resources.
COA Chairman Lee Ching-Lung said in a recent interview the government's strategy to promote the sustainable use of mountainside resources is based on three fundamental principles: preserving public safety in mountainous areas, conserving water and land resources, and encouraging the rational use of the land.

The top policy priority, Lee said, is to strengthen the management and sustainability of water and land resources, which requires a broad education initiative to instill conservation concepts and spread new preservation technologies.

The government also needs to regulate the protection of natural resources if damage to the natural environment is to be kept to a minimum, Lee asserted.

According to the COA chief, demand from the public for water and land resource preservation, prevention of natural disasters, and ecological conservation has greatly increased. Responding to this demand, the COA is undertaking a number of strategies to shepherd mountainside resources, from controlling mudflows and preventing calamities and securing the safety of mountain residents and tourists to promoting sustainable use of mountain resources, in the hope of limiting the landslides that have battered communities.

Controlling mudflows

In "putting into action public safety projects to control mudflows and prevent calamities, while preserving mountainsides," Lee said, the COA will push through a fourth round of reforms that will include prevention projects, the quick resolution of damaged areas, environmental beautification, and ecological engineering.

At the same time, the COA plans to expedite the completion of strengthening catchments to capture mudflows to ease the worries of local residents and travelers.

The COA will carry out catchment projects in 25 districts, mud flow prevention and disaster resolution programs in 521 areas, and ecological engineering and beautification in 316 mountainous areas.

At the same time, projects to control mudflows and prevent calamities will be comprehensively implemented in seven districts that have been victimized by mudflows, such as Taichung County's Songhe in Heping Township and Sinshe Township, Nantou County's Shueili and Sinyi Townships, Tainan County's Dongshan and Baihe Townships, Pingtung County's Mudan and Chaojhou Townships, Taitung County's Chihshang and Luye Townships, and Hualien County's Shoufong and Fonglin Townships.

The proposed projects will coordinate efforts to recover and rehabilitate the land at 203 sites comprised in 72 flood reconstruction projects.

In implementing ecological engineering projects, Lee emphasized that the COA has applied innovative catchment technology to regulate and manage the countryside, and advanced policies to handle and sustain soil and water conservation.

The agency he said, has also stressed consistency in accounting and planning management, e-processing and computerized transactions, which has resulted in a four-fold improvement in administrative efficiency.

Furthermore, the COA has spared no effort on remote engineering system management, compiling 23 engineering management criteria for this operational process and placing a premium on creating a professional engineering image.

The COA is now drafting a regenerating application for construction standards and is developing six types of technology suitable for ecological engineering of high permeable soil-regeneration.

As Lee put it, these projects have already reduced losses by preventing mudflows and their consequences, benefiting 1,160,000 people and preserving 450,000 hectares of river banks and farmland. Also, the COA has improved the efficiency of the limited number of catchments that exist by up to 35 percent, and as a result optimizing cost efficiency, encouraging rational use of the land, encouraging engineers' dedication to construction quality, carrying out quality management and ensuring public construction efficiency.

With a recycling policy for resources, the COA is trying to enfranchise resource recycling in handling and sustaining soil and water conservation.

Strengthening soil and water education

As Lee put it, the COA is trying to combine the catchments plan to preserve mountainsides and the environmental safety infrastructure to strengthen soil and water resources to ultimately encourage local residents to participate in preserving mountainous land, handling mudflows and building agricultural villages that are compatible with environmental conservation. Implementing localized education that teaches how to preserve soil and water resources is also a COA goal.

According to Lee, practical measures to enhance the preservation of mountainsides are now being undertaken by the COA in the following eight districts: Jinbaolibao in Taipei, Nanchu in Hsinchu, Dahu and Jhuolan Townships in Miaoli, Jhongliao and Guosing Townships in Nantou, Liouguei and Cishan Townships in Kaohsiung, Donghe and Beinan Townships in Taitung and Yuli and Fuli Townships in Hualien.

The COA is also setting about expanding the participation of local residents in rehabilitating countryside areas that will provide 16,000 people with job opportunities, complete medium- and small-sized catchments, and plan and regulate specific soil and water projects in 28 districts that will grow grass on 2,060 hectares of mountainside land.

The COA is also making good use of social resources and has worked with communities to strengthen the function of outdoor classrooms and instruction areas in 22 areas where soil and water conservation is being promoted, in all training 6,200 volunteers.

These measurements are what the COA wants to lead the locals to take part in: the preservation of the mountainside, in the hope of constructing a healthy, safe and peaceful living environment, and meanwhile creating job opportunities for the locals and developing their feelings for their homeland.

Lee points out that the COA has an advanced vision of mountainside preservation that will impact 156,000 hectares of land area. The outdoor classroom and instruction area combined with communities have already attracted 615,000 people, and the COA hopes they can thoroughly spread education on soil and water conservation in a way that will allow to take root in every corner of Taiwan.

Construct safety mechanisms

Constructing the handling and maintenance of soil and water for community safety should be on the basis of a response mechanism, and the COA has also done its best to that end. As Lee points out, the COA is trying to assist local governments in regulating mudflows and preventing calamities, by uplifting community self-defensive awareness of disasters, training staff for disaster response.

That should, reduce the chance of disasters occurring and construct an advanced response system for handling and sustaining soil and water, as well as grasping all the information about disaster prevention and finally accelerating the distribution of the information.

The COA has helped local governments establish prevention measures against mudflows: the plan is being implemented in 19 cities and counties, 159 towns, 625 villages, with programs ranging from the creation of 300 mud flow evacuation refuges and 297 mud flow emergency drills to the training of 630 special personnel to aid with establishing exemplary communities that promote self-awareness in disaster prevention.

Chairman Lee emphasizes that the prevention of mudflows should mark out "minimum" evacuation boundaries within the "maximum" probability of the probably disaster area. Therefore, the COA has established potential data for mud flows and an open, flexible mechanism of alarm criterion, and also an instant, open, wireless prevention system to provide the public and precautionary personnel data to search.

Light-weight telemetry cars for mudflows and two-rail observation projects in five districts have been organized. According to Lee, the aim of the COA is to achieve the prospect of "self-awareness of the disaster resulting in zero casualties from it" and assure the safety of more than 30,000 people. At the same time, the COA also offers comprehensive sources of consistent information about disaster prevention to speed up its application and transmission and more than 22,786 have already benefited from it.

The COA wishes to establish a consistent mechanism to synchronize information about disaster prevention, implementing the distribution mechanism of alarm classification for mudflows and clearly defining the scope and time for the local government to execute evacuation. Thus before the disaster comes, the authorities can strike a balance between "disaster control" and "no disruption to the public" without any difficulty.