Sun, May 05, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Fujian `donates' water to Matsu

A GIFT Fujian Province officials decided to give Matsu Island 2,300 tonnes of free water, which will arrive at noon today, in the hopes that a lucrative trade in water may follow

By Lin Miao-Jung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Yesterday, a freighter commissioned to transport water from China to Matsu Island arrived in Fujian Province. The freighter is expected to carry 2,300 tonnes of water into port on the outlying island by noon today, after Fujian officials offered to donate the water.

On Thursday, a delegation led by Tsao arrived in China to negotiate the water purchase. During the negotiations, Fujian Province officials pledged to provide water to the county free of charge "on a trial basis," according to Tsao.

Fujian officials hope that, if Taiwanese officials are satisfied with the arrangement, large-scale water purchases could follow.

PFP lawmaker Tsao Yuan-chang (曹原彰), a legislator from Matsu, was on the freighter yesterday. He told the Taipei Times in a telephone interview that about a week ago, the Cabinet forwarded the needed government documentation to the county government approving the county's purchase of water from China.

Tsao said that the county expected to face water shortages by May 20. "A shortage of water is now a problem for Matsu. It has become necessary for us to obtain water from other places," he added.

"It is not enough just to buy water from Taiwan proper. Purchasing water from Fujian Province is a better solution, due to its geographical location."

Tsao said that the water carried by the freighter this time around would partially alleviate the crisis in Matsu, "but it is very likely that Matsu will need to acquire water from China again soon," Tsaosaid.

According to the current "small three links," regulations, in times of drought, the outlying islands are permitted to purchase water from China as long as approval is obtained from the central government in advance.

The Kinhang No.2 freighter's trip marked the first water transported from China since the "Small Three Links" began in January of last year.

Nevertheless, in response to questions from reporters about the undertaking, Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday insisted that the measure was just an "experimental, preparatory" policy.

Tsai made the statement before delivering a speech to a seminar on cross-strait policy held by the DPP yesterday in Kaohsiung.

"The government will decide whether to buy water from China based on how serious the drought becomes. It is too early to talk about the issue now," she added.

Tsai said the MAC agreed to allow Matsu to transport water from China this time, but whether the government will continue the practice in other Taiwanese counties really depends on the respective situation of each area.

According to China's official Xinhua news agency, Fujian's neighboring province of Guangdong is also facing a serious drought.

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