Sat, Jul 19, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Hualien freeway plan meets resistance

CNA , TAIPEI

Various environmental protection groups blasted the government's plan to build a freeway in eastern Taiwan at a public hearing yesterday, but a Ministry of Transportation and Communications official said that project will start by the end of the year as scheduled.

PFP Legislator Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) and DPP Legislator Su Chi-feng (蘇治芬) presided over the public hearing at the legislature.

The environmentalists expressed their hope that the government will reconsider the plan to build a freeway between Ilan and Hualien and demanded to know why the project was finalized in the run-up to the Hualien county commissioner by-election, especially since Hualien already has a harbor, an airport, a recently widened highway and a newly electrified railway.

Both Chen Man-li (陳曼麗), chairman of the Home-maker's Union and Foundation, and Wu Tung-chieh (蘇治芬), executive director of the Green Formosa Front, said that a 10km tunnel that is part of the freeway plan is prone to earthquakes and of worrisome construction quality.

Green Citizen's Action Alliance Secretary-General Lai Wei-chih (賴偉傑) said that if the government insists on building the Suhua Freeway, there will be protests.

Robin Winkler, an American attorney who has lived in Taiwan for 26 years, also said that the country should stop its continuous development and start to pay attention to ecology and conservation issues.

Chi Hsu-ying (齊淑英), a Green Party candidate in the Hualien by-election, also said that the water-table pollution has resulted from the government's environmental policy. Chi burst into tears when she said that various development projects have seriously damaged the ecology of eastern Taiwan.

Lee said that the decision to build the Suhua Freeway was made out of election considerations, while Su said that major construction projects should take into account the natural environment and the landscape, and should respect the voice of the local people.

Despite the opposition, Chen Fu-an (陳福安), a head engineer from the ministry's Taiwan Area National Expressway Engineering Bureau, said that the project has been studied since 1990 and that construction of the freeway will start as scheduled, beginning with tunnel construction.

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