Published: Saturday 15 September 2001

The latest typhoon-driven mudslides in Taiwan, which killed nearly 100 people, indicate that Taiwanese have made little progress in weaning from cultivation of betel nut trees. According to the researchers, when earthquakes or typhoons cause the mountains to crumble, the shallow-rooted trees do little to grip the rocks and soil. "We have been urging the farmers to stop the betel nut culture, but it seems that our pleas are of no use," said Annette Lu, the country's vice president. In 1999, when landslides had killed about 2,400 people, the government had launched a programme to educate farmers regarding the harmful effects of these trees.

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