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NTU Public Forum Called Attention to the Sanitation Conditions in Disaster Areas While Suggesting Landslide Monitoring to Prevent Disasters from Happening Again

NTU public forum held two colloquiums to which the press were invited on August 20th and August 21st to provide reviews and suggestions regarding the havocs wrought by Typhoon Morakot. The panelists urged the general public and the government to pay attention to "homeland conservation and planning" and "helping the prevention of epidemic in the disaster areas and the reconstruction of the livelihood of the victims." Presided by Vice President Tsung-ho Bao, the panelists include: Dr. Fu-Yuan Shih (physician of NTU Hospital's Emergency Room), Dr. Wei J. Chen (Head of the Department of Public Health), Dr. Yi-chun Chen (Director of NTU Hospital's Infection Control Center), Dr. Joyce Yen Fung (Professor of Department of Social Work and Dean of Student Affairs), Dr. Yeun-Wen Ku (Head of Department of Social Work), Dr. Jiun Chuan Lin (Professor of Department of Geography), Dr. Liang-Chuan Chen (Professor of Institute of Building and Planning), Dr. Fu-Shu Jeng (Professor of Civil Engineering and Dean of the Office of General Affairs), and Dr. Shang Lien Lo (Professor of Institute of Environmental Engineering).

With a heavy heart, Professor Fu-Shu Jeng of the Civil Engineering Department points out that, ten years ago, when Typhoon Herb wrought havoc over Taiwan, we were sitting here discussing the issues of homeland conservation and planning, now we're doing the same thing all over again. To prevent disasters from happening repeatedly, the government should keep an watchful eye on all river basin areas in Taiwan, and people should learn to be humble by bowing their heads and giving right of way to mudslides wherever they take place. As Dean of the Office of General Affairs, Dr. Jeng says that all the nations in the world have landslides and mudslides, but Taiwan is particularly influenced by orogeny, which results in the uplifting of the land by one centimeter every year, and produces 1 million tons of earth and rock, which is 20 times the amount of other nations. Moreover, the frequency of mudslides happening in Taiwan is quite high, almost once every two to three years. Therefore, learning to adapt to them is the only way to survive, i.e., wherever mudslides pass through, people should learn to guide their path rather than try to stop them, says Dr. Jeng. Take typhoon Morakot, for instance, the related governmental agencies only monitor certain sections of the mudslide path. The reason that the Haiso-lin Village and the Taimali Village were worst hit was because the barrier lakes created by landslides had dam failure which resulted in even greater mudslides. In the future, the governmental agencies should expand their monitoring areas to the whole river basin, especially to the upstream areas, so that people who live downstream will get to know that landslides are imminent and stay out of harm's way, says Dr. Jeng. In addition, Typhoon Morakot caused many bridges to break down, so when building new bridges, the design level and the monitoring and management of these bridges should be upgraded as well.

Professor Jiun Chuan Lin of the Department of Geography says that there should be a buffer zone between mankind and mother nature, and endless development should not be allowed. Especially in environmentally sensitive areas, all development projects will inevitably incur many risks. When government agencies are involved with flood control, they should not only use engineering methods to prevent floods, but should take into consideration the limits and restrictions of the natural environment, otherwise the governmental agencies will be bogged down in endless disaster relief actions. Take a look at some of the worst stricken areas, Chia-tung and Lin-bien are built on land reclaimed from the sea, the Tamali village is built on a mountain slope, and Hsiao-lin Village is built half on a mountain slope, and half in a river basin. All these communities and villages are situated in high risk areas. The government cannot possibly handle the challenges of natural disasters with unlimited funds, but the government is responsible for telling people where the high risk zones are and where the natural resources have been overly exploited. If the local residents insist on over-exploitation, then they must bear the risks on their own.

Professor Liang-Chuan Chen of the Institute of Building and Planning indicates that the government should conduct a thorough review to understand which parts of our homeland are vulnerable. Naturally residents of the disaster stricken areas want reconstruction as soon as possible, but the government needs to plan the reconstruction course carefully. Before the reconstruction works begin, many factors need to be taken into consideration and can not be simplified, including taking care of the residents' future livelihood, says Dr. Chen.

Professor Shang Lien Lo of the Institute of Environmental Engineering points out that, although the reason for the complete destruction of the Hsiao-lin Village awaits further investigation, but the Water Resources Agency is definitely at fault for conducting a cursory environmental impact study on the "cross regional water transport project" which necessitated the use of explosives to bomb the mountains of the Hsiao-lin Village. Moreover, when the project was approved by the Executive Yuan, the Environmental Protection Administration failed to do another environmental impact analysis and plunged into its implementation, this is a costly lesson to be learned. In the future, the Environmental Protection Administration must enforce stricter controls to prevent similar catastrophes from happening again, says Dr. Lo.

In matters relating to post disaster epidemic prevention and control, coordinating the existing resources and allowing civilian organizations to share the resources with governmental agencies are of paramount importance. Adopting the disaster areas and avoiding the deluge of supplies should be handled prudently.

In matters relating to post disaster epidemic prevention and control, coordinating the existing resources and allowing civilian organizations to share the resources with governmental agencies are of paramount importance. Adopting the disaster areas and avoiding the deluge of supplies should be handled prudently. Professor Yuen-wen Ku, Head of the Department of Social Work says that after a natural disaster strikes, it is not appropriate for any kind of resources to pour into the disaster areas indiscriminately. What happens when there is an overabundance of supplies and volunteer workers is that the relief workers need to spend more time and effort taking care of these supplies and volunteers than taking care of the victims. Dr. Fu-Yuan Shih, a physician from NTU Hospital's Emergency Room, reminds us that the United Nations has suggested that four items should not be allowed into the disaster areas, namely. "food, clothing, blood, and volunteer workers". The reason being, the cost of handling these four items far outweigh their practical functions. The volunteer workers had best be specially trained group of people in order to be truly helpful. What the disaster areas are in dire need of are actually transportation resources, says Dr. Shih. Should the general public need more pertinent information, they may consult the Relief Web which provides fast and professional advice on disaster relief.

Dr. Wei J. Chen, Head of the Department of Public Health says that the road to post disaster reconstruction is long and winding, and public health units should pay attention to the issues of garbage disposal, the breeding of mosquitoes and flies, the hygiene of temporary toilets and the disinfection of drinking water. Dr. Fu-yuan Shih, a physician from NTU Hospital's emergency room, urges the residents of the disaster areas to avoid body contact with the polluted waters. He says that the residents should wear rubber shoes at all times and pay attention to gastrointestinal diseases. Dr. Yi-chun Chen, Director of NTU Hospital's Infection Control Center maintains that post disaster infection control cannot wait till people get sick or when there is an outbreak of diseases to offer help, but must take preventions beforehand. Particular attention should be paid to dengue fever and H1N1 influenza, so as to avoid the outbreak of a pandemic, she says.

In matters relating to the re-housing of the typhoon victims, Dr. Joyce Yen-fung maintains that prefabricated houses should be avoided as much as possible. She says that when the social workers went south to the disaster stricken areas, they discovered that in the neighborhood there were many resources available for housing purposes such as temples, churches and other public spaces that were lying idle. She says that these resources do away with the necessity to use prefabricated houses. Dr. Wei J. Chen, on the other hand, maintains that prefabricated houses are necessary in that each person needs to have his basic living space. Regarding this issue, Dr. Fu-Yuan Shih suggests that biochemical materials should be used in building the prefabricated houses as these type of prefabricated houses will automatically decompose in two years time, thus serving the housing needs of the victims on the one hand, and solving the problem of having the prefabricated houses lying idle on the other.

With regard to the issues of adoption of the disaster areas and integration of the shelter centers, Dr. Joyce Yen Fung points out that the civilian NPO organizations have already established the "August 8th Flood Service Alliance", whose functions are coordinated by the Red Cross Society. Under the principle of "professional grouping and regional integration," the Alliance is divided into 9 divisions consisting of social work, psychology, law, and medical education, etc. The Alliance adopts the disaster areas borough by borough, and interacts with the governmental agencies on a "window to window" basis, thereby avoiding the complicated procedures and red tapes usually incurred in dealing with governmental agencies.

Dr. Joyce Yen Fung maintains that it is a good thing that the general public harbors strong sentiments to help the needy, as their willingness to help is an expression of the compassion of the Taiwanese people. During the initial phase, people should be encouraged to help, she says, but in the following phases self discipline should be exercised. Although the information on various websites regarding typhoons is generally accurate, people should verify the information regarding donations and disaster relief before they take any action to avoid the spread of false information, according to Dr. Fung. At present there is an overflow of supplies and volunteer workers in the disaster areas, to the extent that the staff at the shelter centers have to spend time and effort making arrangements for the overabundance of supplies and volunteers. In sum, the supplies have become a burden of a kind, as a section chief of the social service division put it: "Please, for the love of God, no more supplies!!" His remarks serve to prove that people's compassion turns out to be another kind of "barrier lake" , and becomes a disaster in and of itself. The opinions of the various panellist can be obtained in their entirety on the official website of NTU's public forum. Please log onto: http://homepage.ntu.edu.tw/~ntuvpadmin/record.htm

Chinese version