Thu, Dec 04, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Activists blast city over Beitou plan

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Environmentalists yesterday blasted the Taipei City Government’s decision to go ahead with the construction of the Beitou Gondola, accusing the government of placing political interests above public safety.

The activists accused Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) of either tampering with figures to avoid an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the Beitou Gondola or having a poor knowledge of EIA regulations.

“The Beitou Gondola will have every problem that the Maokong one has — and many more,” said Lynn Lin (林子凌), secretary-general of the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association.

Despite mounting concerns over the Maokong Gondola’s safety, “the Taipei City Government has autocratically decided to go ahead with the Beitou project,” Lin said.

The city government is fully aware that the Beitou Gondola will be built on sensitive areas that are prone to landslides — from the foot of Yangmingshan to the top of the national park — as park authorities have highlighted the risks before, Lin said.

“This is placing political interests before people’s lives, [not to mention] a blatant waste of taxpayer’s money and damage to the environment,” she said.

Lin said this was a case of history repeating itself.

The city government commissioned the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) in 2000 to 2002 to inspect the areas in Muzha (木柵) prior to the construction of the Maokong Gondola and received a report showing that not only was the area sensitive and prone to landslides, the Hsindian Fault runs through the area.

“However, the city still went ahead with the construction,” she said.

Green Party Taiwan Secretary-General Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲), who was also present at the press conference, said: “A wrong political decision is more severe than embezzlement, it poses an even larger risk to the public.”

Showing reporters a graph that ITRI had made, Lin said: “You don’t have to be an expert to know that this is dangerous.”

Lin also accused the city of dodging an EIA for the Beitou project like it did for Maokong, adding that Hau was a “co-conspirator in fraud.”

“EIA regulations state that development projects of more than 10 hectares have to go through an EIA, but in the proposal, the city states that the Beitou Gondola would cover only 9.5 hectares,” she said. “This is a case of document fraud, as according to EIA regulations, the development area should be calculated based on the area of the construction base.”

In the document the city tallied up the area of the construction base of three out of four stations, as well as the area where the cable would pass. However, it used the building area of the station at the foot of the mountain for calculations instead of the construction base area, she said, adding that this was a clear violation of the EIA law and evidence the city was trying to avoid an EIA.

“Whereas the construction base area is 3.9 hectares, the building is only 500m² ... The actual area of the Beitou project should then be well over 12 hectares,” she said.

“This document was sent to and approved by Hau, who was then the Environmental Protection Administration minister,” Lin said.

“If the project was truly 9.5 hectares, why should the city even bother informing the EPA? By approving it, Hau is either in on it with them, or not knowledgeable about EIA regulations,” she said.

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