Thu, Mar 07, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Agriculture official argues farmers' interests ignored

WATER SHORTAGE The chairman of the Council of Agriculture says he objects to emergency measures that favor the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park


In the increasingly fierce battle for water in Hsinchu yesterday, the Chairman of the Council of Agriculture (COA) Fan Cheng-chung (范振宗) expressed his growing discontent over what he views as the favoritism being shown to industry.

"I strongly oppose giving priority to industry over farmers in regard to water use. Farmers are my top priority," Fan said.

Fan was referring to emergency measures that shift water for farms to the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park.

In regard to the plan, implemented on March 1 and involving, according to revised Cabinet figures, 14,625 hectares to be left fallow, Fan commented that those who use the borrowed water should pay for it.

Fan said being forced to let fields lie fallow so that industry has enough water is an embarrassment for the COA.

"I'd rather step down than allow farmers' rights to use water be manipulated this way," Fan said.

Fan joked sarcastically that the oversight for agricultural affairs should be transferred to water resources agencies if the government intends to so willfully ignore a farmer's right to use water.

PFP legislator Chou Hsi-wei (周錫偉) yesterday criticized agricultural officials for failing to carry out the fallow project, after Hsinchu County Commissioner Cheng Yung-chin (鄭永金) permitted the opening of a water gate at the Chutung Irrigation Channel (竹東圳) on Monday.

Responding to Chou's comments, Fan called for better cooperation between government agencies in sharing the cost of compensating farmers in regard to the fallow project.

Meanwhile, Hsinchu County Commissioner Cheng yesterday closed the gate he opened on Monday after the Ministry of Economic Affairs promised to consider giving even more compensation to farmers in Chutung township (竹東) than those in the rest of Hsinchu.

Farmers in Chutung argue that the government has no right to close the water gate on the Chutung Irrigation Channel because it was built by local residents during the Japanese occupation and that therefore, they deserve extra compensation.

Fan said that the science park's overseer, the National Science Council (NSC, 國科會), in the past had asked high-tech firms at the park to pay extra fees to share the compensation costs to farmers, but that so far, no such plan had been announced. Fan said that without such help, the COA would be forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars more.

Fan added that the COA would only assume NT$293 million of the estimated NT$1 billion in compensation costs for the fallow project.

At the legislature, lawmakers yesterday criticized the NSC for failing to properly plan for potential water shortage problems at the park and demanded that the agency issue a review of the issue within a week.

DPP legislator Chiu Zang (邱彰) said that the NSC failed to take emergency measures in January, when signs of potential water shortage appeared.

James Lee (李界木), the science park administration's director-general, said that the biggest problem is that agencies involved in water resources management have overlapping jurisdictions.

In Taiwan, water resources management is divided up between several governmental agencies, including the Water Resource Bureau, the Water Conservancy Agency, the Taiwan Water Supply Corporation, the COA and others.

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