Wed, Jul 21, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Premier promises NT$100 billion in storm relief funds

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Over the next 10 years, the government will spend a total of NT$100 billion in land restoration projects, Premier Yu Shyi-kun said yesterday.

The funds will be allocated as a direct result of the devastating flooding caused by Tropical Storm Mindulle, which killed 29 people and left 12 others missing.

The three state-run fruit farms in mountainous areas -- Fushoushan Farm, Wuling Farm in Taichung County and Ching-ching Dairy Farm in Nantou County -- should also be relocated within three years to maintain land resources in the central mountain range, he said.

"We're thinking of adopting a two-pronged approach to tackle the long-standing problem," Yu told the program host of a radio station yesterday morning.

In addition to drafting a special bill to cut down on or outlaw land development in mountain, coastal and flood-prone areas, Yu said that the government would offer incentives to residents living in such areas to encourage them to relocate or to sell land to the government.

Yu also hinted that the government might not repair the Central Cross-Island Highway, which was damaged once again by falling rocks, landslides and mudflows triggered by Mindulle, between Kukuan and the Techi Reservoir.

"With an injection of NT$1.3 billion, the segment of the road was originally due to be re-open one week before Mindulle hit the country," he said. "It's estimated that the damage caused by Mindulle may cost an additional NT$6 billion."

A team of professional geologists formed under the Cabinet will decide within a week whether it is necessary to fix the damaged section of the road again.

Regarding the controversial planned construction project of the NT$96.2 billion freeway construction project to connect Suao in Ilan County with Hualien County, Yu said that the task force set up to handle the matter is scheduled to decide within a month whether to conduct a second environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the project or scrap the project altogether.

"Although the project was begun by the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] administration and has passed an EIA, the geological conditions in that area have experienced a dramatic change since Tropical Storm Mindulle and the devastating earthquake that claimed more than 2,400 lives on Sept. 21, 1999," Yu said.

The EIA of the project was passed on March 15, 2000 when the Chinese Nationalist Party was in power.

However, the assessment craftily acknowledged that the project could have unforeseen environmental effects that would have to be dealt with as they occurred.

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