Fri, Nov 28, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Water rights problems surface

CITY-COUNTY DISPUTE Both Taipei and Taipei County lay claim to water from the Hsintien River -- a fight that has forced councilors to suggest a referendum to decide


Referring to a recent controversy over unsatisfactory availability of water from the Feitsui Reservoir, Taipei County Commissioner Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said yesterday that a referendum demanding water rights would not be a feasible way to solve existing problems.

Only one-third of residents in the county get water from the Feitsui Reservoir, which is located in the county but managed by the Taipei City Government. Earlier this week, Su accused the city government of being lax in completing upgrades at the Chihtan Water Treatment Plant, where water from the Feitsui Reservoir will be treated, by the original deadline -- the end of this year.

Su said it was the city government's intention to prevent quality water from being used by county residents.

Su's accusation was refuted by city government officials, who said the construction completion date had been officially postponed to the end of August next year. However, the city government will complete the upgrades three months ahead of schedule. After completion, the water supply from Feitsui to county residents will increase to 47 percent from 40 percent.

On Wednesday, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) councilors Liao Hsiu-hsiung (廖秀雄) and Chiu Chui-yi (邱垂益), among others, suggested commissioner Su should hold a referendum on water rights to prove residents' eagerness to get their water supply from the Feitsui Reservoir in their county.

People First Party (PFP) councilor Lin Hsiao-kuang (林孝光) suggested Su should take aggressive action, like cutting Taipei's water supply.

Yesterday, KMT councilor Liao again brought up the referendum idea in a council meeting, urging Su to give it serious consideration.

"You have time to argue with Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) about water issues. Why don't you hold a referendum to fight for water rights?" Liao asked Su.

In response, Su said that it makes no sense that a local government manages water supplies in other places, like the Taipei City Government does. However, Su said, using a referendum to fight for water rights was not feasible.

"Protecting Taipei County residents' right to use quality water is the key point. Cutting water supplies and voting for water rights are both impractical," Su said.

The Taipei water department channels water from a section of the Hsintien River between the Chingtan Dam and the Chihtan Dam to the city and part of the county.

During the drought last year, the city reduced the amount of water to the county from 370,000 tonnes per day to 300,000 tonnes, but relaxed nationwide water-rationing measures for city residents to allow them to wash cars and go swimming.

The water crisis last year prompted the county to apply for water rights to the Tsukeng Dam, where the Nanshih and Peishih Rivers merge to form the Hsintien River. The controversy over two local governments fighting for water from the Hsintien River was eventually solved by revised laws, which authorize the central government to handle water rights.

Su said that his goal is to make quality water from the Feitsui Reservoir equally and fairly available to both the city and county.

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