Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Roads In High Mountains

According to the Taiwan News, there are plans to repair a section of the Central Cross-Island Highway, which has been closed since the 9-21 Earthquake of 1999.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo promised on Tuesday to open an access road on an earthquake-damaged section of the east-west cross-island highway in central Taiwan to allow traffic between lower Guguan and the Deji reservoir in Taichung County's Heping township.

Answering questions from Legislator Yen Ching-piao, Mao said he hopes the partial repair work will begin next year.

Yen said that re-opening the highway -- which runs through one of the country's most scenic mountain ranges -- will boost Taiwan's tourism industry, especially now that the government has decided to allow tourists from China into Taiwan from next month.

Mao said his ministry is not sure that the whole central cross-island highway can be reopened because the geological instability of the mountain region in the location of the damaged road section has made the repair work extremely difficult.

He said he could only promise that a five-kilometer access road will be completed to allow residents and farmers between lower Guguan and the Deji reservoir to have easier access to population centers.

The Highway Bureau has estimated that it will cost at least NT$10 billion (US$328 million) and take more than 10 years to repair the 24-km section totally destroyed in the 1999 earthquake.

If boosting tourism is the main goal, the money could be better spent. Picking up the trash that litters Taiwan's countryside would be a good start. Using the money to expand nature reserves, which would attract eco-tourists, should also come before road rebuilding.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Rainwater Capture

Even though water is so cheap, some of my neighbors think it's worthwhile collecting rainwater. The lady who lives here says she uses it for mopping the floor and watering plants - not, it seems, for flushing the toilet.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Selfish People Should Use Public Transportation

...simply because they'd live longer, even if they don't care about the environment. According to this Forbes article:

What's really taking a toll on your health is the polluted air you're breathing, lengthy traffic delays and dodging accidents to and from work.

[A report] that investigated diesel exhaust levels during commutes [in various US cities] documented diesel particle levels four to eight times higher inside commuter cars, buses and trains than in those cities' ambient outdoor air. The only commutes found to be low in diesel exposure were those on electric-powered subways and commuter trains, buses running on alternative fuels or retrofitted with diesel particulate filters, and in cars traveling with little truck traffic.

I'm pretty certain that scooter riders - who account for the majority of commuters in Taiwan - breathe in even more pollution that car drivers and bus passengers. Unfortunately, anyone riding a bicycle is also vulnerable.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Reforestation Plots

Taiwan Sugar, a government-owned company, has given over some of its land to reforestation. Here are photos of one such patch in Tainan County. The trees seem to be doing well. Note the plastic sheeting covering the ground. The reforestation plot borders an established forest.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Expensive Oil Equals Less Flying

I've already blogged about how rising gasoline prices have caused people to drive cars less and instead ride motorcycles and possibly bicycles. Now it seems the price of oil is starting to really cut into flying. China Airlines has said they're reducing the number of flights they operate; Far Eastern Air Transport is going under for various reasons, fuel prices being one of them.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Not Everyone Is Recycling...

Recently I attended a health promotion event where people were encouraged to take long walks. The reward for completing the course? A bottle of mineral water. As you can see, not everyone recycled the bottle after drinking the water...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Disposable Chopsticks & Convenience Stores

The Taiwan News reports that the Environmental Protection Administration is urging the public to stop using disposable chopsticks, so as to reduce the volume of disposable eating utensils:

According to EPA Minister Stephen Shu-hung Shen, the administration is suggesting that individuals take their own reusable chopsticks when eating out, and that workers, who constitute a major consumer group at convenience stores, take non-disposable chopsticks to their workplaces.

Shen said the Taiwan public uses 5 billion disposable chopsticks per year, with the largest number dispensed at convenience stores.

In its bid to reduce the volume of disposable utensils, the EPA plans to meet with convenience store operators in June to discuss the possibility of discontinuing the practice of providing customers with disposable eating utensils, Shen said.

According to the article, if a restaurant provides 100 pairs of disposable chopsticks per day to its customers, it generates 12 kilos of trash. The article also quotes a lady who says firms giving "environmentally friendly chopsticks" to their employees are frequently wasting resources, as often those chopsticks are not used.

It takes a while to kick the habit of disposable chopsticks. Remembering to take them with you every time you go out is the first step; then you need to remember to use them. Now, after a few months of trying, I get it right about 80 percent of the time.

The bring-your-own-chopsticks movement is nothing new, of course. This article has a great photo of a truckload of used sticks awaiting disposal...