Tue, Jul 27, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Freeway plan's foes cite flaws in report


An open hearing is needed to ease public anxiety over the expensive Suao-Hualien Freeway project, legislators and lawyers said yesterday.

According to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Eugene Jao (趙永清), the project was one of the leftovers from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime, because its environmental impact assessment (EIA) report was passed by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) conditionally on March 15, 2000 -- just three days before the DPP won the presidential election.

Chao said that data included in the EIA report was collected prior to 1997 and is out of date.

"We have sufficient reason to question the EIA's report. Over the last seven years, the devastating 921 Earthquake, typhoons and other natural disasters have changed the ecological and geological conditions at the proposed construction site for the freeway," Chao said at a press conference.

The project, with an estimated cost of NT$96.2 billion, aims to build an 86.5km four-lane traffic connecting Suao in Ilan with Chian in Hualien. Engineers plan to tunnel several sections -- a total length of about 40km -- through the eastern part of the Central Mountain Range.

Chan Chun-kuei (詹順貴), a lawyer from the Taiwan Bar Association, said that the EPA had obviously neglected its duty, because the project deserves further review, in terms of environmental protection. Citing the EIA Act (環境影響評估法), Chan said that the project's proponents must conduct a Phase II EIA if the development activities are likely to have a significant impact on the environment.

"If there's any administrative neglect involving the project's EIA evaluation, it deserves to be investigated," Chan said.

Chan and other lawyers representing the association said that an open hearing is needed to ease the public's anxiety over the expensive project.

Meanwhile, scholars, labor unionists and environmental activists voiced their criticisms of the freeway project at another press conference. More than 100 academics stated their opposition to the project. Hsia Yue-joe (夏禹九), a professor of natural resources at National Dong Hwa University, suggested that the government consider improving existing roads to promote ecological tourism.

"Building huge constructions in eastern Taiwan is inappropriate because natural disasters are common there," Hsia said.

Hsia said that the government should improve local infrastructure in order to transform Hualien into a quality tourist attraction.

Members of Taiwan Railway Labor Union yesterday also expressed their opposition, saying that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) has contradictory plans.

According to Chen Han-chin (陳漢卿), president of Taiwan Railway Labor Union, in the last decade, the MOTC has invested NT$43 billion in improving railway services, which will shorten the 180-minute journey between Taipei and Hualien to a mere 90 minutes.

"Our union members' right to work might be jeopardized because of the freeway project," Chen said.

Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, said it was time for the government to re-allocate the limited budget for national projects wisely.

Chen said the project would be a hazard, because the proposed route passes through 17 environmentally sensitive areas and national parks.

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