“Big Lake” is running dry for the first time ever

 drought Photo: Shravan K Acharya/Unsplash

Photo: Shravan K Acharya/Unsplash

Even before Pope Francis released his environmental encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, many parts of the world were already experiencing the extreme effects of climate change. Being from the South Pacific, I’m aware of the detrimental effects of the rising sea levels in low-lying atoll islands, like Kiribati and Tuvalu. Here in Taiwan, while other parts of the world are experiencing floods due to excessive rainfall, we are starting to experience the serious effects of drought.

Since the Columbans first arrived in Taiwan in the late 1970s, until today, never in the country's history had we experienced a water shortage. However, this year in 2021, reservoirs throughout the country have reached dangerously low levels due to severe drought in the central and southern parts of Taiwan. To address this problem, local governments have announced that water will be rationed on certain days. Every household is being asked to reserve water because there will be no running water every day like there used to be.

Since local governments started rationing water, there has been an increase of consciousness among the locals about what Laudato Si’ says concerning the effects of climate change. For example, in the mountains where the Columbans serve Aboriginal communities, two villages are experiencing water shortages. Parishioners in a nearby town called Da Hu, which means ‘big lake,’ have said that the lake has never run out of water for centuries, but now the lake is drying up due to the effects of climate change.

Many of our parishioners in the Aboriginal communities where I live and serve, are greatly impacted by this problem. Farmers have shared how the water shortage is affecting the harvests that they depend on for their livelihood. Everyone is talking about how this problem affects our daily lives and how our understanding of what is “normal” needs to change.  We need to be more conscious of conserving water, we have to think about how to use water wisely in our everyday lives. Even when we use water in our toilets or showers, we need to be mindful of not wasting water as much as we can.

Columban Fr Taaremon Teatao is from Fiji, is assigned to Taiwan.

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