Sun, Aug 06, 2000 - Page 1 News List

President Chen shelves Meinung Dam project

CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE The president has said the proposed Kaohsiung County dam, much criticized by environmentalists, will not be built during his term in office

By Cheryl Lai  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday said that the controversial Meinung Dam (美濃水庫) would not be built as long as he is in office.

Chen said that shelving plans for the dam in the southern Kaohsiung County township of Meinung would fulfill one of his campaign promises.

"As long as there are alternative ways to supply water to the greater Kaohsiung area, it is not necessary to build the Meinung Dam," Chen said.

"I am here to confirm that the promise that I made during the campaign was good when I made it and is good now. The dam will not be built during my term in office," Chen said.

Government spokeswoman Chung Chin (鍾琴), however, said that making a decision now on the project was unnecessary as the Ministry of Economic Affairs has sufficient power to address the issue of the construction of the dam in the future.

The former KMT government had originally planned to build a major reservoir near Meinung village, a cultural center for the island's Hakka ethnic group, to increase the water supply to industries.

Local residents and the DPP have been bitterly opposed to the project.

Last summer, with a majority of KMT legislators, the Legislative Yuan passed a NT$250 million budget for construction of the dam, which observers saw as the end of the opposition to the dam. But after Chen was elected president in March of last year, the movement against the dam was given a new lease on life.

Chung Yung-feng (鍾永豐), an environmental activist and sociologist was appointed as director of the Bureau of Water Resources (水資源局) in Kaohsiung County, where the dam was to be built.

Moreover, after the presidential election, DPP legislators demanded that the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA, 環境保護署) review several of Taiwan's other more controversial industrial development projects. The result is evidence of the KMT's and DPP's differing stances on environmental issues.

Meinung residents have long been against the construction of the Meinung Dam.

According to the government, surveyors have been mapping out the area for the last 10 years and the protests against the project have persisted ever since.

In October 1992, a group of local scholars met to discuss the main reasons the dam should not be built. They concluded that the benefits of the dam would be to industry and not to the residents who would have to live in its shadow. They also said that Japanese engineers had found serious faults with the surrounding shale and sandstone formations.

Moreover, the group said that the worries of the local residents were being ignored.

Chang Cheng-yang (張正揚), secretary general of the Meinung People's Association (美濃愛鄉協進會) said that Chen's decision was the right one.

"What we say now is the same message we've been saying for years. It has been a long protest. I am pleased to hear that the president has made good on his campaign promise, but my only hope is that there will never be a dam built in Meinung," he said.

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