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Work still lies ahead despite progress in flood control: Ma

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday that although there has been substantial progress in terms of flood prevention, the administration needs to remain focused on its efforts to reduce flood-related damages.

Ma made the comments at the Kuomintang's weekly Central Standing Committee meeting in which Deputy Economics Minister Francis Liang (梁國新) gave a report on the administration's comprehensive watershed management plan.

After hearing the deputy minister's report, the president said that the previous eight-year NT$80 billion flood prevention fund was approved in 2006 when the Democratic Progressive Party was in power, and that since he took office in 2008, he has been paying close attention to how the money is spent.

Ma pointed out that although the amount of precipitation brought to Taiwan by Typhoon Kong-rey this year was substantially higher than figures recorded during previous typhoons, flood-affected areas were a lot smaller this year.

For example, Yunlin saw a 29-percent reduction in the size of flood-affected areas during Typhoon Kong-rey despite a larger amount of precipitation compared to figures recorded during Typhoon Kalmaegi in 2008, while Chiayi and Tainan saw reductions of 49 percent and 94 percent, respectively, compared to figures recorded during Typhoon Morakot in 2009, all of which indicate that there have been substantial improvements, Ma said.

The president said that the descriptions of floods in the past were not clear enough, and that for the sake of clarity, the administration has asked the relevant authorities to describe floods according to four parameters, namely precipitation, area, depth and duration, in order to better assess the circumstances.

Taiwan has roughly 1,150 square kilometers of land prone to flooding, Ma said, adding that the government has so far carried out projects to reduce flooding across 538 square kilometers.

The government will use NT$60 billion to carry out further projects across 300 square kilometers of high-priority areas, the president said.

Upcoming projects will also take national spatial planning as well as agricultural and aquacultural activities into consideration, which will lead to better results, Ma added.

The president pointed out that flooding in Taipei has largely been brought under control, despite the fact that the city's storm drains have not been significantly expanded.

This is partly because the relevant authorities now place large water pumps in flood-prone areas ahead of typhoons, Ma explained.

The president urged the Ministry of Economic Affairs and all relevant authorities to engage in horizontal communication to coordinate their efforts, further urging them to preempt instances of corruption from arising.

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