Wed, Oct 05, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Ma grills the EPA over controversial highway opening

ROAD RAGE The Taipei mayor and lawmakers visited the agency to question the procedures followed when opening the section of roadway


Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and more than 20 city councilors and legislators visited the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday to express their objection to the opening of a controversial section of the Taipei-Ilan highway.

While concern about potential damage to water quality in Feitsui Reservoir (翡翠水庫) -- the only water source for both Taipei City and County -- has brought the city government and city council together in a rare show of political co-operation, pan-green city councilors who expressed support for Ma's decision, however, did not show up at the EPA yesterday.

Before Ma and the city councilors arrived, a group from Ilan protesting outside the EPA criticized Ma for politicizing the issue.

The protesters, led by legislators from Ilan, said that Ma's visit to the EPA was nothing but a political show.

They called on Ma and the city council not to sacrifice the rights of people from Ilan and confuse Taipei residents by making it a political issue.

During the meeting, the issue once again became a political tug-of-war as the city government and EPA failed to reach any conclusion amid heated argument.

Ma and city councilors from the blue camp reiterated their concerns and questioned the EPA over an allegedly unlawful procedure used in granting the Ministry of Transportation and Communications permission to open the section of highway.

"The EPA turned down the ministry's proposal to open an intersection in Pinglin as early as 1991. Allowing the ministry to open the section now is contradicting your own decision and is ignoring the environmental experts' advice," Ma said during the meeting with the EPA yesterday afternoon.

EPA Minister Chang Kuo-lung (張國龍) acknowledged that the EPA disapproved the ministry's proposal based on its environmental review team's report. However, he argued that the decision was made before the Environment Impact Assessment Law came into force in 2003.

The ministry then filed another request with the EPA, and in the meantime opened the interchange to residents in Pinglin (坪林) township and the public, according to the Ministry of Interior's (MOI) "Modification of Land Use in Taipei's Water Source Area" regulations.

"We asked the ministry to provide all the documents in order to request the modifications, and right now we are still waiting for them to give us complete information," Chang said.

When asked why the EPA allowed the ministry to open the section when it hadn't provided enough documents to pass the EPA review, Chang stressed that the ministry made the decision according to the MOI's regulations, but that the EPA could only give environmental advice, and it "did not have the right to make the decision."

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