Tue, Mar 05, 2002 - Page 4 News List

Water channeling slakes Hsinchu's thirsty farmers

WATER SHORTAGE The Hsinchu Irrigation Association has caved into farmers' pressure and agreed to channel water to rice paddies in the region's agricultural area

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Under pressure from farmers in Hsinchu County, the Hsinchu Irrigation Association yesterday channeled water to agricultural fields. The Cabinet had decided last week to divert water to the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park.

Yesterday morning, about 200 farmers protested at a water gate at the Chutung Irrigation Channel in Chutung township, calling for the channeling of water from Paoshan Dam for irrigation use.

Paoshan Dam, completed in 1985, supplies water to the science park and 65 hectares of fields.

Farmers said they could not accept the decision made by the government last week to give the science park priority for water without communicating with farmers in advance.

Emergency measures involving a project covering 18,000 hectares to be left fallow were implemented on March 1, when water from Shihmen Dam, Taoyuan County, Paoshan Dam and other reservoirs were diverted to the park to make up for a water shortage.

Officials of the Water Resources Department at the Ministry of Economic Affairs estimate that 600,000 to 650,000 tonnes of water that was originally to be used for irrigation is channeled to places other than the park per day.

Most farmers have already planted rice seedlings in their fields. Farmers of five boroughs of Chutung township said yesterday they were not interested in receiving compensation from the government because it was hard for them to give up planting.

They said people there have lived by planting for generations.

Hsinchu County Commissioner Cheng Yung-chin (鄭永金) also expressed his discontent with the government's carrying out the fallow project so suddenly.

Cheng said the decision was made rashly because he didn't even receive government documents about the fallow project until yesterday morning.

"Although it's important to solve water-shortage problems at the park, farmers' rights to survive should have not been ignored," Cheng said.

Cheng said he would attempt to fight for farmers' rights by communicating with the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA).

Ho Chi-chun (何啟權), director of the county's Bureau of Reconstruction, said yesterday that farmers were unsatisfied with the compensation offered by the Council of Agriculture, which came to NT$46,000 per hectare.

Ho said although agricultural officials promised to offer extra compensation to those who had planted rice seedlings and provide compensation for each hectare up to NT$73,000, the offer is less than the NT$79,000 per hectare offered by the Taiwan Provincial Government in 1996.

Farmers criticized the government's failure to take emergency measures in time, which meant farmers' efforts in turning over earth and planting rice seedlings were in vain.

Representatives of the MOEA's Water Resources Department said yesterday that a meeting to be held tomorrow might reach a conclusion on offering compensation.

Officials of the Hsinchu Irrigation Association said some of the water from Paoshan Dam would be sent to fields via Chutung Irrigation Channel to satisfy about 200 farmers until a new compensation plan is developed.

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