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Toll of drought in Taiwan not natural: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-04-13 19:46

China's Taiwan island is suffering its severest drought in 50 years, which has seriously compromised the quality of life for many residents. The water supply is cut for two days a week in some cities, and is rationed in some other localities. Farmers have seen their crops dry up and die, and drinking water has become a luxury for some.

Extreme weather conditions such as the lack of rain during the typhoon season last year have contributed tremendously to the severe lack of water. Yet if enough had been done to build facilities for the conservation of water and the construction of agricultural irrigation systems, the effects of the drought would not have been as severe as they are today.

Although its average annual precipitation is the highest of all provinces and autonomous regions in the country, the island has suffered seven serious droughts without any improvements being made in the water conservancy facilities.

There is no reason for the island's authorities to ascribe the inconvenience and suffering the drought has caused solely to the extreme weather conditions. The failure of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party to make any long-term plans to solve the problem and invest in water conservancy facilities, despite the repeated droughts, has also been a contributing factor.

Although an adequate water supply is of great concern for the well-being of Taiwan residents, what the DPP has been most concerned about is the impact the water shortage is having on the island's semiconductor industry. The chip manufacturing sector consumes a huge amount of water, and to ensure a stable water consumption for the island's chip manufacturers, the DPP authorities have imposed tough restrictions on water usage in some parts of the island, so as to ensure that there is water for two major science parks in central Taichung city where the majority of high-tech businesses are located.

The DPP has also, for a long time, been diverting money that should have been invested in water conservancy projects in the agricultural areas to develop the semiconductor industry to increase the supply to the United States, which is facing an acute shortage of semiconductors, so as to leverage more support from it. That explains why its policy preferences have been focused on the industrial areas rather than supporting the agricultural regions.

Given the unbalanced rainfall and increasingly frequent droughts, the island authorities should have cultivated the awareness of saving water among residents. Fees for water should have been raised to let residents know the importance of not wasting water and the money collected used to build water conservation facilities.

The Taiwan authorities in charge of agricultural irrigation organized a ceremony to pray for rain last week and the island's leader Tsai Ing-wen has reportedly visited temples to do the same. Isn't it funny that Taiwan's ruling party should pray for rain after having done nothing substantial to solve the water shortages? The regular droughts suffered by the island expose the lack of vision and wrong priorities of the DPP.

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