Environmental groups yesterday hailed as an important victory a decision by the Taipei High Administrative Court rejecting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the proposed Tamsui-Taipei expressway construction project in New Taipei City (新北市).
Although the ruling can still be appealed, environmental activists were happy with the court’s decision and called on the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) to withdraw the EIA and not appeal.
The New Taipei City Government had proposed building a “Tambei Expressway” (淡北道路 Tamsui-Taipei Expressway) along the eastern shore of the Tamsui River.
At present, Highway No. 2 is the only major artery linking Taipei to New Taipei City’s Tamsui District (淡水) and the northeast coastal area. It is clogged with heavy traffic on weekday rush hours, as well as on weekends and holidays.
The road runs along the narrow Zhuwei Corridor (竹圍走廊), which is geographically confined by the Tamsui River to the west and the Tatun Mountains to the east. The Taipei MRT Tamsui Line runs in this corridor, from Zhuwei MRT Station northward to Tamsui MRT Station.
Local residents and environmentalists vigorously opposed the expressway project, as it would encroach on the nearby Mangrove Forest Preservation Area.
After the EPA convened meetings to evaluate the project’s environmental impact, the EIA committee announced its conditional approval for the expressway in July 2011.
However, local residents Wang Chung-ming (王鐘銘) and Chen Fu-chi (陳福齊) organized a petition in August of that year seeking to nullify the EIA report on the grounds the project would negatively impact an important and sensitive natural environment and therefore it required a second-stage EIA.
However, the Executive Yuan’s Petitions and Appeals Committee rejected their petition in February last year.
Wang and members of the Green Party Taiwan filed a lawsuit with the Taipei High Administrative Court in April last year.
Local residents called yesterday’s decision a major victory.
“We hope every EIA case in the future can be evaluated and scrutinized in a thorough and prudent manner. It must be done with participation and input by local residents to protect their natural environment,” Wang said.
Other residents were delighted with the decision, saying justice had been served, but New Taipei City Councilor Tsai Chin-hsien (蔡錦賢) was disappointed.
“We have wasted three or four years already. With the construction set to start, the court decision has negated years of effort by many people,” Tsai said.
“The court did not respect the wishes of local residents. It is an unreasonable ruling, as the court does not understand the suffering of local residents due to frequent traffic jams,” the independent councilor added.
EPA Department of Comprehensive Planning head Yeh Chun-hung (葉俊宏) said his office would study the court judgement and would appeal if there is a possibility of overturning the decision.
He said the EPA could return to a first-stage EIA or go into second-stage EIA, pending its appraisal of the judgement.
Meanwhile, Taipei City Government spokesman Chang Chi-chiang (張其強) said the city government respected the court ruling and would not begin construction unless the project passes an EIA.
The New Taipei City Government, on the other hand, said it would continue construction and would provide the EPA with more information as a basis for a second-stage EIA.