About 500 people from Hsiaokang District protested yesterday in front of the Kaohsiung City Government, urging Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) not to issue a license to a newly-completed medical incinerator installed next to their communities.
Waving banners, demonstrators shouted to express their anger at the establishment of the incinerator, which stands as close as 300m to some homes. The protesters included senior citizens who joined the demonstration with their grandchildren in tow.
Representatives handed over the results of an advisory referendum held on Dec. 7 to city government officials. The result indicated that 97.8 percent of the 7,187 people who cast votes were opposed to the incinerator.
"No matter what anyone says, this result reflects real public opinion. Our protest will only get bigger if the city government insists on issuing a license to the operator," Fengming borough chief Huang Chun-fu (
Sixty-one percent of the 11,778 eligible voters in the six boroughs near the incinerator participated in the poll.
The referendum was conducted by a committee made up of borough chiefs, community leaders and representatives of environmental and cultural groups. Many of these people have been protesting against the incinerator, designed to dispose of infectious medical waste, for more than two years.
According to the protesters, the location of the incinerator was objectionable -- the distance from the incinerator to the six boroughs ranges between 300m and 900m.
Protesters also said that Hsiaokang residents had been discriminated against for decades. They alleged that a number of environmentally-unfriendly facilities had been built there over the years, including steelmaking furnaces in a nearby industrial complex and a large household-waste incinerator with a daily capacity of 1,800 tonnes.
In response to the demonstration, Deputy Mayor Lin Yung-chien (林永堅) said the application process had been processed over five years and met applicable standards.
"We've worked very hard over the last two years to communicate with the residents, and have said that the city will form a special task force to monitor the incinerator's operation in future," Lin said.
A statutory deadline for the government's evaluation of the application falls on Jan. 11.
Mayor Hsieh said that the government had spent more than five years carefully evaluating the project and that the facility met standards required of it in a five-day trial in September.
"Under the circumstances, the residents should not have any need to speculate on the operation of the incinerator," Hsieh said.
Huang, however, said that the conclusions reached at a public hearing held by the operator in March, 1999, had been fabricated because most residents opposed the project.
Mayor Hsieh had promised not to issue an operator license until matters concerning people over the issue were clarified.
Huang and other representatives said they would not raise any objection if the city government relocated the incinerator.
Hsieh was reluctant to respond to this idea yesterday.
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