Feitsui Reservoir in Taipei. (Photo/Hung Hsiang-ho)
A shortage of water will hit Taiwan by 2030 due to serious buildup of silt in the country's reservoirs, Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan said Monday.
The 50 reservoirs in Taiwan have seen their capacity decreased over the years due to severe silt buildup and by 2030 will see their capacity further decrease to a degree hardly able to sustain the 23 million people in Taiwan, Lee said.
The silt buildup will pose a great challenge, Lee said. For instance, the amount of silt in the Shihmen Reservoir in northern Taiwan has accumulated to 100 million metric tons, he said at the 2013 Taiwan Smart Cities Summit in Taipei.
If all the trucks used to carry away the silt are lined up, they will be as long as seven laps around the Earth and the transport cost will run up to NT$100 billion (US$3.3 billion), which is not feasible, Lee said. Moreover, a severe flood and drought strikes Taiwan every two years and nine years, respectively, Lee said.
In addition to a looming water shortage, Taiwan may be facing a food and energy crisis in the next 30 years. Lee attributed the crisis to a warming planet and increasing global population, coupled with Taiwan's reliance on other countries for resources.
Taiwan, which lacks natural resources, is a heavy consumer of energy and water and yet charges for use of such utilities are low, Lee said. A rational discussion on making the charges more reasonable has been lacking due to political factors, Lee added.
In a similarly paradoxical issue, Taiwan's government has to spend a lot of money to preserve its shoreline damaged by heavy use of groundwater by agriculture and fish farming sectors, and yet the costs of the conservation far outweigh the economic benefits, Lee said.
Taiwan needs to hold rational discussions on these issues and needs smart planning to brace itself for all the challenges ahead, Lee said.