This article on river dust in the Taipei Times caught my eye this afternoon while I had a spare moment. It’s worth going through as it illuminates a few interesting points.
The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has budgeted NT$500 million (US$16.9 million) to mitigate dust pollution in the Jhuoshuei River (濁水溪) in Yunlin County.
This appears to be a result of recent political hysteria about air pollution, with protests demanding that both the central government in Taipei and local municipal governments act so as to be seen to be doing something about air pollution. The problem of course, is that there is very little constructive that could be done (largely because most of the constructive measures that could have been taken, already have been, and now there are only stupid options left, like shutting down power plants). This would seem to be one such small constructive measure, although there is the obvious doubt of whether that NT$500 million is going to buy much in the way of clean air (it won’t).
The Jhuoshuei River — “muddy water river” in Chinese — is the nation’s longest. It springs from the mountains in Nantou County and runs westward through Changhua, Yunlin and Chiayi counties.
False. The Zhuoshui river does not go anywhere near Chiayi county. A Taiwanese journalist should know this, or could very easily check this online using google maps, but apparently couldn’t be arsed. The Zhuoshui runs from Nantou through between Yunlin county to the south and Changhua county to the north (forming a natural boundary between the two counties). Chiayi county is to the south of Yunlin county. One of the Zhuoshui’s tributaries does form in Chiayi county, but the Zhuoshui itself has nothing to do with Chiayi.
“The EPA is to work with the Water Resources Agency to reduce the dust pollution and the agencies’ starting point is increasing the naked river bed’s coverage by water or plants, EPA Minister Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) said on Monday.
It is possible that plant seeds will be blown away by the wind, but such attempts would be worthwhile even if only one in 10 succeeds in taking root, Lee said.”
And what are the chances that only one in ten seeds actually takes route? Probably not very great I would imagine as most of the vegetative cover to protect the seeds from wind is along the river banks, but during winter the river bed itself is largely exposed to the winds. You might say that the EPA is literally proposing to piss away NT$500 million into the wind.
“The EPA will also work with the Soil and Water Conservation Bureau to reduce the amount of sand carried from the mountains upstream, he said.”
Well good luck with that. Effectively reducing the amount of sediment carried downstream by the Zhuoshui river is an enormous task, orders of magnitude beyond a NT$500 million budget. At best, they might build a few concrete rills and jackets to help stabilize some mountain slopes.
“Meanwhile, the Water Resources Agency on Monday held a public meeting to explain its regulations concerning the Jiji Dam (集集攔河堰) in Nantou, but several environmentalists held a news conference before the meeting to demand that the agency demolish the dam.”
Why would they want to abolish the Jiji dam?
“Completed in 2001, the dam was built to serve Formosa Plastics Group’s (FPG) naphtha cracker in Yunlin’s Mailiao Township (麥寮), given that an exclusive water pipe extends from the dam to the complex, Taiwan Water Resources Protection Union director Jennifer Nien (粘麗玉) said.”
Oh, because corporations. These people never give a moment’s thought to the design and function of dams and reservoirs. I know from first hand observation having visited the area several times that this is bullshit. Most of the water from the Jiji dam actually goes into an aqueduct delivering it to the “octagon” in nearby Linnei township from where it is then divided between three supply routes, the largest of which is the irrigation trunk canal crossing the entire breadth of Yunlin county between Linnei township in the north and Yuanchang township in the south where it then terminates and empties out any potential flood water into the Beigang river. I’ve been to all the key locations there and have taken the photographs myself.
“After the dam’s completion, residents in downstream Yunlin and Changhua counties have had to grapple with water shortages and dust pollution from the river bed, Nien said.”
I suspect they always have had to deal with dust pollution and water shortages, even before the dam was built. Dust and water shortages in the winter dry season are a long term result of Taiwan’s climate and geography and have nothing to do with this or that dam.
“FPG has been reluctant to develop sea water desalination facilities because it thinks it can rely on clean water from the dam, Changhua County Green Resources and Culture Society chairperson Wu Li-hui (吳麗慧) said.
The company should invest in its own source of water instead of using clean water from the dam and forcing local residents to pump groundwater, Wu said.”
FPG doesn’t want to build desalination plants because they are expensive. Similarly, I haven’t yet bought my own helicopter – because it would be expensive. When nice things are expensive, people tend to look for cheaper alternatives first. This is neither interesting nor particularly outrageous.
In addition, nobody but nobody is forcing local residents to pump groundwater. The locals are pumping groundwater because there isn’t sufficient infrastructure to provide for them. Except that the Water Resources Bureau has just completed a brand new reservoir in Yunlin county for which the residential water treatment plant is currently under construction. So the problem is already being solved.
“Asked to comment on the environmentalists’ demand, Lee said that more professional evaluations would need to be collected before demolishing the dam.
About 70 percent of the dam’s water is used for agriculture, while 20 percent goes to industry and 10 percent is for residential use, Lee said.”
In other words the environmentalists are wrong and should be given dunce hats and told to go away and sit in the corner while the EPA pretends to solve an unsolvable problem by throwing money into the wind.