Sun Moon Lake Is a Symbol of Taiwan’s Drought. Influencers Take Notice.



TAIPEI, Taiwan — Sun Moon Lake was once a popular tourist spot in Taiwan. But now the bottom of the lake is Instagram-famous for a grim reason: one of the worst droughts to hit the island in decades.

The parched lake bed — cracks snaking across the ground as far as the eye can see — has drawn the attention of influencers, who have trekked to the site to take visually arresting photos of the terrain and post them online.

But the situation is dire. Residents have prayed to the god Matsu for rain after a monthslong drought dried up the island’s reservoirs. Some parts of the lake have begun to grow grass, and jetties that normally float are sitting on dry mud. Tour boats sit idle.

“Our business is 90 percent less than last year,” said Wang Ying-shen, chairman of a group for businesspeople who rent boats to visitors.

Rainfall in the seven months through February was less than half the historical average after no typhoons hit Taiwan in 2020 for the first time in 56 years, according to the government.

Officials call the drought Taiwan’s worst in more than half a century, and it is putting pressure on the island’s semiconductor industry. More than 90 percent of the world’s manufacturing capacity for the most advanced chips is in Taiwan.

Farmers who need to flood paddies to raise rice, lotus root and other thirsty crops have been hit hard. “The lotus flowers and seeds I planted don’t produce well,” said Chen Chiu-lang, a farmer in the southern city of Tainan, standing in a dry paddy field.

Households in areas under top-level restrictions go without running water two days a week. They include Taiwan’s second-biggest city, Taichung, with 2.8 million people; Hsinchu, one of the biggest global enters for semiconductor manufacturing; and Tainan and Kaohsiung in the south. The economics minister, Wang Mei-hua, has warned that restrictions might be tightened.

The authorities are drilling extra wells, and military planes are dumping cloud-seeding chemicals in hopes of triggering downpours. The economy ministry allocated 2.5 billion New Taiwan dollars ($88 million) in March to drill wells and build emergency seawater desalination facilities.


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