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June 29, 2017

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Where's the flood prevention fund, Tainan?

Between midnight and noon yesterday, precipitation in Tainan's Sigang District (西港) and Anding District (安定) surpassed 300 millimeters. Between 7 and 8 a.m., precipitation was recorded as falling at a volume of 90.5 millimeters per hour in the Southern Taiwan city's West Central District (中西區).

East District's Yuyi Rd. (裕義路) and Rende District's Taizi Rd. (太子路) started to flood the day before yesterday. Even sections of Funong St. (富農街) and Dongcheng St. (東成街), which are less prone to flooding due to elevation, were flooded.

The Tainan City Government didn't announce school and work cancellations for yesterday until 8:19 a.m., prompting netizens to post angry responses on Tainan Mayor William Lai's (賴清德) Facebook page. Parents who dropped off their kids at school had to drive back to get them after learning the news belatedly. Some were forced to abandon their scooters by the side of the road and take a taxi instead, because their engines had stalled due to the floods.

This is not the first time that Lai has been criticized over the city government's weather-related decisions. On Aug. 29 last year, Tainan saw more than 700 millimeters of rainfall. Roads were cut off. The city government didn't announce school and work cancellations until almost 10 a.m. Suffice it to say that the citizens of Tainan were not pleased.

Lai has on several occasions blasted the central government for not giving the Tainan City Government enough money for watershed management, but of the NT$80 billion nationwide budget for 2006 to 2013, Tainan reportedly got NT$16.9 billion, the largest portion of all.


The Tainan City Government claims that it has seen considerable progress, but the so-called improvements couldn't even stand up to a night of heavy rainfall, Tainan mayoral candidate Huang Hsiu-Shuang (黃秀霜) said.

Heavy rainfall began very early in the morning, and several roads, residences and factories were already flooded, she added.

In terms of flood prevention funds, the Ministry of Economic Affairs' Water Resources Agency has spent the most on Tainan, Huang said. Apparently, NT$14 million was spent on a "newly completed" water pump station in Xuejia District (學甲區) that wasn't able to pump water yesterday.

This not only a question of wasting taxpayers' money; as Huang also pointed out, it also raises questions about whether city officials had properly supervised the construction.

Hsieh Lung-chieh (謝龍介), head of KMT's Tainan chapter, said that the city government needs to conduct a comprehensive review of how it spends taxpayers' money on flood prevention.

According to local reports, Lai yesterday thanked the Tainan City Council and the central government for their assistance over the past several years. He asked that the citizens of Tainan not belittle the city government's efforts, saying that Tainan will continue to work with the central government to solve the flooding issue step by step.

Preventing floods is not just about building taller levees and digging wider storm drains. Tainan also needs to look into more sustainable methods and things such as permeable paving, rain gardens, detention basins and low-impact development. With all the money that has been given to the city, one wonders why Tainan hasn't been able to prevent floods more successfully.

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