Authors: Mei-Fang Fang Fan
Abstract: Typhoon Morakot swept over Taiwan on August 8, 2009, pounding the nation with strong winds and downpours. The torrential rain triggered flooding in many areas and devastated the village of Siaolin in Kaohsiung County. The affected local residents and environmental groups claim that the Tseng-Wen Reservoir Transbasin Water Diversion Project was responsible for the destruction of their villages. Existing research emphasize that it will be ineffective if the government’ hazard reduction programs solely employ the technical and engineering approach and neglect people’s risk perception and adaption behaviors. This paper aims to examine the controversy on the Tseng-Wen Reservoir Trans-basin Water Diversion Project and Typhoon Morakot in Taiwan from the perspective of risk government. It explores how policy stakeholders and local residents perceive the risks of the project and problem framing, the tension of the idea of vulnerability and safety and its policy implications. The research methods adopted include documentary analysis and in-depth interviews. It shows multiple perspectives of stakeholders on the project, various knowledge claims among experts of different disciplines, and conflicts between local knowledge and experts. Environmental groups challenge the credibility of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and local residents tend to blame for the tunnel explosive engineering work’s affecting the fragile geology and the Forest Bureau’ false forest policy. However, nobody bears responsibility for the flooding and the village’s burying by mudslides, which seems to reflect Beck’s ides of ‘organized irresponsibility’ of risk society.
The government’s post-disaster reconstruction tends to focus on the vulnerability of natural conditions and neglects the social dimensions of vulnerability (e.g. tribal and land identity, social relations and anti-eviction). Local residents doubt the scientific survey on the ‘dangerous tribe’ and challenge their expertise. It also discusses learning from the Typhoon Morakot, policy change and the obstacles of policy learning. The development project involves scientific controversy as well as the unpredictable and irreversible impacts on the environment which cannot rely upon experts and technocracy only. Local particularities and lay knowledge need to be included in policy-making. This paper argues for the need of local participation and deliberation on disaster mitigation and water resources policy, and seeking consensus through continuous intercultural and interdisciplinary dialogue.
Keywords:risk governance, disastergovernance, disaster, vulnerability,policy learning