The construction of a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) maintenance depot in Sinjhuang City (新莊), Taipei County, has damaged neighboring houses and some Lo Sheng Sanatorium buildings, Lo Sheng activists and local residents alleged yesterday.
“We have warned that the geological composition [of the site selected for the maintenance depot] is not suitable for such a large-scale construction, but the Department of Rapid Transit Systems [DORTS] ignored us,” Youth Alliance for Lo Sheng member Wang Hao-chung (王顥中) said as activists staged a demonstration outside DORTS headquarters in Taipei yesterday.
“Now that damage has occurred, we demand that DORTS stop the construction, investigate how it happened, and explain the results of the investigation to the public honestly,” Wang said.
Pictures taken by activists and displayed at the demonstration showed cracks in the walls of residence halls at Lo Sheng that run from the ground up to the ceiling.
Similar cracks have appeared in houses bordering the construction site as well. Pictures showed that the roof of a traditional brick house — the house that has been most seriously damaged — had completely collapsed.
“You can see in the picture that the roof collapsed because the wall on one side moved because of subsidence caused by the construction, while the wall on the other side did not move, and therefore the two walls could no longer hold up the roof,” Wang said while pointing at the picture.
Unable to take part in the protest because of a prior engagement, neighborhood supervisor (鄰長) Wu Wan-yi (吳萬益) confirmed the situation by phone.
“Cracks in the walls and other damage began to appear as soon as construction started,” Wu said. “About 10 houses are being impacted.”
Located on a hill in Sinjhuang, the Lo Sheng Sanatorium complex was built during the Japanese colonial period to isolate people with Hansen’s disease — also known as leprosy — because the disease was believed to be highly contagious and incurable at the time.
A decision by DORTS to demolish the sanatorium and flatten part of the hill to make way for the maintenance depot was met with opposition from activists who believe that the building is of important historical value and that it was a violation of Lo Sheng residents’ human rights to force them to leave their families and live in life-long isolation decades ago, and then force them to leave Lo Sheng in their old age.
While the government came up with a compromise in 2007 to preserve buildings on the site in response to the opposition, several activists with geological and engineering backgrounds believe that there are problems with DORTS’ geological assessment of the location and have warned that the construction may cause damage in the surrounding area.
“I warned DORTS several times, but they never did anything to fix the problems,” civil engineer Wang Wei-min (王偉民) said by phone. “One DORTS official actually admitted to me in private that there were inaccuracies in the data they collected, but they still didn’t do anything about it.”
Wang said the site has a very large underground water reserve.
“The water is held underground because it’s covered by a layer of rock that serves as sort of a lid over a pot of boiling water,” he said. “So the digging causes the lid to lift up and of course it is causing problems.”