Wed, Mar 06, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Water-resource officials stick to fallow decision

THE NEW WATERGATE Plans to have rice fields lie fallow so that the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park gets the water it needs have farmers up in arms


Farmers open up a floodgate at the Chutung Irrigation Channel in Chutung township, Hsinchu County, on Monday morning to channel water to their fields in defiance of the government's fallow-land project. Looking on is the county commissioner, Cheng Yung-chin, third left, and the township mayor, Lu Tung-wen, fourth left.


Despite some backtracking on Monday, water resources officials said yesterday that Hsinchu-area water would not be channeled to agricultural fields after all, because it violates last week's Cabinet deal calling for 18,000 hectares of fallow fields.

Farmers in Chutung (竹東) township yesterday took turns to monitoring a water gate at the Chutung Irrigation Channel (竹東圳) to ensure that water was indeed being channeled to their fields rather than to the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park.

Farmers said they wouldn't give in on the dispute until satisfied with the compensation package. The package being offered by the Council of Agriculture, NT$46,000 per hectare, is woefully inadequate according to the farmers.

Although agricultural officials promised to offer extra compensation to those who had already planted rice seedlings, providing them with up to NT$73,000 per hectare, the offer is less than the NT$79,000 per hectare offered by the Taiwan Provincial Government in 1996.

Meanwhile, farmers near the Lungen Irrigation Channel (隆恩圳) opened a floodgate for irrigation without permission from the Water Conservancy Agency (水利處) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs. After arguing with the farmers, ministry officials with the help of police later closed the gate.

Lin Jing-jion (林襟江), the acting director of the Water Resource Bureau, said yesterday at a panel discussion held at the Legislative Yuan that the distribution of water to the park and the fallow project would go ahead as planned.

"We hope to facilitate effective communication between agencies tomorrow to draw up an acceptable compensation plan and to ensure water supplies to the park," Lin said.

Emergency measures were implemented on March 1, when water from the Shihmen Dam (石門水庫), Taoyuan County, the Paoshan Dam (寶山水庫) and other reservoirs were diverted to the park to make up for the water shortage.

Taoyuan County Commissioner Chu Li-lun (朱立倫) said at the meeting that the government should have taken emergency measures much earlier, when signs of a water shortage appeared late last year.

Chu also urged the government to plan long-term water resources management projects.

Yang Wen-ke (楊文科), director of the Construction Management Division of the National Science Council's Science Park Administration, said that water resources bureaus should be extremely cautious about water management, because cutting 30 percent of the water supply would effectively shutdown operations at the park. The annual output of the park exceeds NT$600 billion.

Yang stressed the urgency of establishing a seawater desalination plant in Hsinchu County to ensure water supplies to the park.

Lin, of the Water Resource Bureau, stressed that preserving water sources effectively and promoting water conservation would be two ways to liberate Taiwan from the water crisis.

Lin said that the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park would no longer face water shortage problems after the completed expansion of the Paoshan Dam and the construction of new water channels from Taipei.

Officials at the Water Conservancy Agency said that the water crisis in Taiwan this year could be attributed to bad weather.

Tyan Chau-ling (田巧玲), chief and senior engineer at the agency, said that between last November and this February Taiwan received only 30 to 40 percent of its usual rainfall.

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