Sat, Feb 28, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Green Party Taiwan halts tree removal at site of old Songshan Tobacco Factory

ENVIRONMENTALISTS The Green Party Taiwan says that after the factory was closed in 1998, the growth of heavy vegetation created a habitat for rare wildlife

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Green Party Taiwan yesterday prevented the Taipei City Government from felling a tree on the site of the former Songshan Tobacco Factory after one of its members climbed the tree.

The Songshan Tobacco Factory was established under Japanese colonial rule in the 1930s. In 2006, the Taipei City Government signed a contract with the Farglory Group to build a 429,000m² dome complex at the site in a build-operate-transfer project with a budget of more than NT$23 billion (US$695.9 million).

The complex, to be completed next year, will include a 40,000-seat indoor multi-function sports stadium, a department store with restaurants and movie theaters, a luxury hotel with a business center and an office building.

Farglory will operate the Taipei Dome Complex for 50 years. After that, ownership and operation of the complex will revert to the city government.

Environmentalists and local residents opposed the project because they were concerned that it would damage the local ecosystem.

After the factory was closed in 1998, thick vegetation has grown at the site and it has become a habitat for many rare species. As the contractor yesterday went to remove the last tree on the construction site, Green Party Taiwan members and local residents rushed in to save it.

Green Party Taiwan secretary-general Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲), party member Robin Winkler (文魯彬) and Parents’ Association chairman Yu Yi (游藝) from Guangfu Elementary School were arrested for trespassing and disturbing the peace.

CANDIDATE

However, Calvin Wen (溫炳原), the Green Party Taiwan candidate for the Da-an District legislative by-election, stopped workers from removing the tree after he climbed the 15m camphor tree.

“I’ll get down as soon my demands are met,” Wen told dozens of police officers, firefighters and construction workers.

“You should wait for the court rulings and the results of the second environmental impact assessment to come out. You should respect the legal process,” Wen said at the site.

Although the construction project has already passed an environmental impact assessment, a second assessment is required, as Farglory made some changes to the project.

The city government has allowed Farglory to continue its work, prompting environmental groups to file a lawsuit against the government.

REFUTED

The court meeting for the case took place yesterday, but officials refuted accusations that the project damaged the environment.

“It’s perfectly legal that we act according to the results of the first assessment before the second [environmental impact] assessment is complete,” said Lee Kan (李侃), executive secretary of the Taipei Cultural and Sports Park — the official name of the future dome complex.

“So far, we haven’t received any court order asking us to stop the construction,” Lee said.

The construction contractor decided to postpone removal of the tree after Wen refused to come down from it.

As of press time, Wen was still in the tree.

He said he would not get down until receiving a positive response from the city government.

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