Mon, Jan 19, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Tafa Industrial Park protest march turns violent

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER, WITH CNA

Residents from Taliao Township, Kaohsiung County, gather outside a waste water treatment plant in the Tafa Industrial Park to protest the fact that no decision has been reached on their compensation demands over toxic gas leaks that occurred in the area last month.

PHOTO: CNA

Demanding answers as to whether or not they would be compensated for suffering from toxic gas emissions, hundreds of angry residents from Kaohsiung County’s Taliao Township (大寮) protested at the Tafa Industrial Park yesterday.

Around 1:30pm, Taliao Township chief Huang Tian-huang (黃天煌) led between 200 and 300 residents on a march to the Tafa waste processing plant. The protesters demanded an apology from the plant and that each resident be compensated NT$100,000 for having been adversely affected by the gas leaks.

They also demanded the sewage factory be relocated and urged the industrial park to conduct an environmental impact assessment.

On Dec 1, an unidentified toxic gas sickened 82 students at Chaoliao Junior High School and Elementary School while they were in class. They were rushed to a nearby hospital after they began vomiting and complained they were feeling dizzy.

The poisonous gas affected villagers again on Dec. 12, Dec. 25 and Dec. 29.

Efforts to pinpoint the source of the leaks have so far failed. The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), after conducting an analysis, said the source of toxic gas leaks may never be identified as there could have been multiple sources.

On Friday, nearly 2,000 residents of three villages in Daliao staged a protest in front of the Presidential Office to express their anger over the government’s inability to pinpoint the source of the leaks that have sickened children in the area.

Denouncing the government for its inability to protect them, the protesters said they believed that neither the EPA nor the industrial park wanted to resolve the problem and were keen to sidestep their responsibilities. Friday’s protest ended peacefully after Presidential Office Public Affairs Department Director Tsai Chung-li (蔡仲禮) accepted a petition from the villagers.

Yesterday’s protest, however, turned violent when protesters successfully broke down blockades that police had set up in front of the plant. Several protesters wearing helmets and armed with baseball bats and hammers, broke through the lines of police and began smashing the plant’s glass windows.

They were later arrested.

Amidst the pushing and shoving, a section chief at the park lost his helmet and suffered from concussion.

A television news reporter was also injured during the violent protests.

Huang Chun-rong (黃俊榮), section chief of the Tafa sewage plant, later addressed the protesters and said the company hoped that residents would give it time to deal with the matter.

After negotiation, the two sides agreed that the sewage plant would provide details of any relocation and possible compensation by 7pm on Wednesday.

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