Sun, Aug 21, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Pollution of the Sifen River must be stopped

By Chiu Hei-yuan 瞿海源

For the most part, Taipei City Government policies emphasize development while neglecting the environment. This can be seen in the Taipei Dome development project, the development project for the Kuang Tzu Senior Citizens’ Home (廣慈博愛院) and the development project for the 144 hectares of land designated for commercial use at the former No. 202 Artillery and Ammunition Plant.

The only exception appears to be the government’s plan to seal off the Sifen River (四分溪) in Nangang District (南港) to protect fish, which seems to emphasize ecological conservation. However, considering the city’s drive to push development projects, it is not certain that the Sifen River plan will go ahead.

Several of Taipei’s build-operate--transfer (BOT) development projects involve handing large tracts of land over to developers so they can carry out high-intensity construction projects such as the Taipei Dome, large shopping malls and luxury housing estates. Such developments maximize profits for the developer while providing as little environmental protection as possible.

During the decisionmaking process, reviews on urban planning and environmental impact assessments, the city government sides with developers and pays little attention to the welfare of the environment and ecology.

The Sifen River project is the first time the city government has approved a plan to close off of a river to protect fish. The government should also encourage the relocation of factories and facilities in the entire river basin to stop them from polluting and harming the area’s environment and ecology, especially in the upper reaches of the stream, where factories should be banned altogether.

However, the city government does not seem to have a clear plan to do this.

For a long time, officials have allowed a soil dump to dump polluted water into the Sifen River. Just recently, this soil dump once again pumped large volumes of polluted water into the river from a discharge point it had installed.

Members of the public involved in the plan to block off the river to protect its fish notified the city government via a citizens’ hotline and then followed inspectors from the Department of Environmental Protection when they inspected the area.

However, the inspectors only issued an oral warning. Only after local residents and a local community development association filed several complaints did the government reluctantly issue the legally required fines.

This soil dump, located near the source of the Sifen River, has been dumping polluted water and other unidentified materials into the river for a long time. The soil dump has breached the Soil and Water Conservation Act (水土保持法) and the Water Pollution Control Act (水汙染防治法) many times and it has been fined by the city’s Building Administration Office and Department of Environmental Protection.

In February, the soil dump’s operational period expired: The city government should not have allowed it to continue operations.

If the Taipei City Government is really serious about promoting its policy to block off the Sifen River to protect fish, then officials really must stop companies from dumping polluted water into it. It would be best if officials revoked the operational licenses of all the companies along the river that break regulations.

This is the only way the 7km of the Sifen River will ever be cleaned up.

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