Friday, August 14, 2009

Typhoon Morakot: The Writing's on the Wall

A huge landslide in the mountains of Kaohsiung County in southern Taiwan.

A government rescue helicopter flying through the the clear early morning skies before the afternoon rain and mist roll in.

As the fog of incapacitating shock clears, many people in central and southern Taiwan are becoming angry. Both of Taiwan's leading English newspapers carry criticisms of the government's top leadership in their editorials. The Taipei Times editorial is titled The price of incompetent leadership and the Taiwan News editorial is named Morakot's harm to Taiwan worsened by KMT hubris. None but the most mindless Chinese National Party (KMT or Kuomintang) supporter couldn't help but be angered by President Ma Ying-jeou's pathetic display of leadership during this national tragedy.

As the President and his men point fingers, it is everyone else but them to blame for how the response to Morakot and its aftermath have been mismanaged. Even the authoritarian and aloof leadership in China managed a better performance in the wake of last summer's devastating Sichuan earthquake.

Despite the lack of presidential leadership through this horrendous week the true spirit of compassion and love has shined through as a light above the devastation below, as people; be they rescuers, conscripted soldiers, volunteers or just a stranger offering a hand; have given their all through the mist, rain and mud, along treacherous slopes and through raging waters to save and bring comfort and hope...and lead the nation through this devastating tragedy.

It is also a time to reflect. We need to ask how much of this tragedy has resulted from decades of poor land and water management policies that set up some regions as ticking time bombs. As forests were stripped away leaving nothing to bind the soils and rocks of mountainsides together and uncontrolled and irresponsible construction became a standard, it turned many mountain areas into a tragedy waiting to happen. It is time to take a long hard look at land and water management policies and put an end to short-term "make-a-quick-buck while tearing up the countryside" type of policies and replace them with real sustainable land and water management policies that don't cost lives and billions of dollars in repairs when big typhoons blow in.

See today's Taiwan News editorial titled Taiwan must heed Morakot`s warning for more reflection on Taiwan's land and water management policies.

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