July 30-August 5, 2012
Bajau Reservation and church struggle with land subsidence in aftermath of rainstorm
Reported by Simon Lin
Written by Lydia Ma
Residents living in Bajau Reservation in Manzhou Township of Pingtung County have been living in fear and uncertainty due to severe land subsidence in their village. This small reservation made up of roughly 20 families has seen mayor shifts in the land, including cracks in the ground and displacement of buildings, in the past few years. Their living conditions worsened after Typhoon Morakot in 2009 as their reservation was officially labeled as an area with “safety concerns”.
Despite these problems, the government has done almost nothing in the past 3 years for Bajau residents in terms of , disaster prevention, rebuilding and relocation. As result, residents were forced to stay inside their unsafe homes and hope for the best during the severe rainstorm on June 10, 2012. Now, almost 3 years after Typhoon Morakot, residents in Bajau are urging the government to heed their plight hoping that they will not continue to be forgotten.
Bajau is located near the border of Pingtung County and in a high and remote area where two streams intersect, which has increased the rate of land erosion. During Typhoon Morakot, villagers’ buildings suffered structural damages resulting in cracks in the walls and tilted buildings. There is also one church in the village called Bajau Presbyterian Church, a church belonging to Paiwan Presbytery and pastored by Rev. Kivi. Rev. Kivi said that the church building also has major cracks along the ground and it had been struggling with land subsidence well before Typhoon Morakot. She said the church’s bathroom located on the ground floor of an adjacent building is now one floor beneath the main building because of land subsidence. After requesting for help for 3 years, the church finally got government aid in building a mud wall, which was of no help. Now, even the church door has caved in.
Commenting on the worsening conditions in Bajau which deteriorated some more recently and the government’s half-hearted response, some residents speculated that the government was ignoring them because they were such a small, insignificant community. Rev. Kivi said that she hoped residents would take initiative in rebuilding the community because the Bajau Reservation is only one community within Changle Village in Pingtung County, and there are no elected or appointed government leaders in Bajau. Most of the residents are seniors or children. The villagers used to rely on government organizations in the past and had never fought for their rights. Now that the Community Development Center has closed down residents need to unite.
The community’s lack of an organizational structure has negatively affected preventative measures aimed at making the village more secure, said Rev. Kivi. She attributed this problem to the lack of leadership at both the government and indigenous community levels. “Since there is no leadership, the church must step in and lead for the time being,” she said. She added that the church has begun training disaster prevention volunteers and stored some foods and supplies as well as sought out a shelter. These efforts went a long way in helping the village during the June 10 rainstorm. Hence, though church efforts are limited, Rev. Kivi is thankful to God for moving in people’s hearts so that some have come forward to help.