Chang slams over-farming
The China Post staff
August 3, 2001, 12:00 am TWN
Premier Chang Chun-hsiung yesterday harshly criticized the nation's excessive development around the island for economic gains regardless the negative effects. He urged people in Taiwan to heed to the painful lessons to prevent aggravating the damages from natural disasters.
When addressing a meeting sponsored by the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture on knowledge-based agricultural development amid Taiwan's bid to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), the premier made calls for Taiwan's harmonization with nature.
The death toll of Toraji, one of the deadliest typhoons to strike the island in recent years, had reached 83 as of yesterday while the number of injured people in need of medical treatment stood at 36, and an additional 130 still unaccounted for. The death toll is expected to continue rising as rescue workers continue to search for the bodies of those missing and now presumed dead.
Rescue teams are still striving to verify reports that over 30 people at a village of an aboriginal tribe were buried alive. An old man said he couldn't find his way to the village after a 24-hour walk to look for his daughter living in the village in Nantou County. He said people told him the whole village was buried under earth and rocks.
The government's emergency rescue center can only confirm that two persons in the area were pronounced dead while 28 others are missing.
Pointing out the fact that the geography of Taiwan features high peaks, steep slopes, rapid flow of water river, and fragile earth structure, Chang said the human factor of excessive and improper cultivation of land bring forth major killers like floods and mudslides.
He urged all people in Taiwan and public servants at all different levels of government to learn the bitter lesson from Typhoon Toraji and show greater respect to nature when seeking economic benefits.
Vice President Annete Lu pointed out that people who make chewing betel nuts a daily a habit should do some soul searching when they see the latest havoc wreaked by typhoon. The unrestricted extending of betel nut trees is widely blamed as one of the key culprits for natural disasters in mountainous areas on the island.
Premier Chang said the central government will solicit ideas and plans to help Taiwan achieve sustainable development that is not at the cost of the natural environment.
He said the cross-department task force will complete in one week a new and sweeping evaluation on the safety of villages located at precarious regions that have the danger of facing new mud and rock slides.
Chen Chin-huang, a Cabinet minister in charge of post-typhoon reconstruction work, plans to
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launch a re-forestation campaign soon. He said widespread planting of new trees will help assault the problem at its roots.
Chen said at least 100,000 hectares of farm land will be released from the agriculture sector after Taiwan joins the WTO.
He said the government should not wait any longer to create more forests and allow the land to replenish itself.
Meanwhile, more criticisms were aimed at the inefficiency of the government.
Even Legislator Chang Chun-hung of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party blasted the bureaucracy as having ability in discovering the real reason for the devastation.