Fri, Jun 25, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Aborigines protest plan to divert water from Bunun villages


Aboriginal people from the Bunun Tribe in the southern part of the nation yesterday held a protest in Taipei against construction plans of the Water Resources Agency, saying that a project that would transfer water from rivers running through their home towns might seriously jeopardize not only fragile ecological systems but also their quality of life.

More than 100 residents from Taoyuan township and Sanmin township in Kaohsiung County yesterday gathered in front of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, which oversees the agency.

Waving banners and singing songs, demonstrators including shamans held a ritual to curse their enemies, pledging to oppose the project, which was mapped out without consultations with residents.

Demonstrators were received by agency director-general Chen Shen-hsien (陳伸賢), who said that negative ecological impact of the projects would be limited and that an environmental-impact assessment report had been completed.

"Diverting abundant water into an existing reservoir is less devastating than building a new reservoir to meet increasing water demand in the future," Chen said.

The project envisions transferring excess water during the rainy season from the Kaoping River, which divides Kaohsiung and Pingtung counties, to the Tsengwen Reservoir in Tainan County.

Nationwide, 18 percent of river water is channeled for human use. Twelve percent of water from the Kaoping River is used.

According to the agency, the project includes the construction of diversion weirs, a total of 20km of water pipes and two tunnels of a combined 15km in length to make the reservoir more efficient.

In Taoyuan township, a diversion weir, which would be 3m high and 175m long, would be built to divert water from the Laonung River (荖濃溪), one of the tributaries of the Kaoping.

The budget for the project for next year was approved by the Legislative Yuan in April.

Bids would be solicited in September.

Chen stressed that laws recently passed by the Legislative Yuan would ensure affected people receive compensation.

However, demonstrators yesterday pounded tables and apparently felt insulted by the way they had been treated.

Le Tuan (里段), a Bunun clergyman in Taoyuan township, told the Taipei Times that the agency's director-general had missed the point of today's demonstration.

"Why did he bring up the compensation issue? We stressed that we don't want the construction because we want to leave a sustainable future for future generations," Le Tuan said.

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