Thu, Jul 30, 2009 - Page 2 News List

EIA panel orders further probes into MRT projects

SLOW DOWN Protesters demonstrated in front of the EPA’s headquarters yesterday, urging panel members not to rush their decisions on several major projects

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) environmental impact assessment (EIA) panel ruled yesterday that two planned Taipei City Metro Rapid Transit (MRT) lines needed more investigation.

The decision will delay the city’s MRT expansion plans.

The Taipei Rapid Transit Corp (TRTC) plans to construct a 17km, 16-station North-South Line — from Taipei City’s Neihu District (內湖) to Taipei County’s Yonghe (永和) — as well as an extension line for Lujhou (蘆洲) and Sinjhuang (新莊) in Taipei County.

While the North-South Line plan was sent to a second-stage EIA process, which has more stringent regulations and standards, the latter was passed on condition the developer redo a land evaluation and establish a soil disposal site.

Yesterday was the last time the current EIA panel reviewed cases as a group before the members’ terms end tomorrow. Hundreds of representatives of environmental groups and resident associations protested in front of the EPA’s headquarters before the meeting.

The protesters called on the panel not to rush approval of major development projects.

“We wonder why the EIA panel decided to condense 10 EIA case reviews, four of which are very controversial. We urge the panelists not to review them recklessly,” Green Party Taiwan Secretary-General Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) said.

The four cases were the expansion of Kaohsiung’s Dalin Power Plant from one generator to two or four, the renewal of the China Petrol Corp’s oil distillation plant in Kaohsiung City’s Dalin District (大林) and the two MRT lines.

During the meeting, Pan said the main criticisms environmentalists have of the North-South MRT Line were its price tag and pollution impact on nearby residents and Guangfu Elementary School, which is the city’s largest primary school with some 3,000 students. They also questioned the need for the new line, he said.

“This is especially true when you consider that a good portion of the line overlaps with the new Neihu Line and the newly passed Minsheng-Sijhih (民生汐止) line. It is wasteful to spend NT$89.3 billion [US$2.75 billion] so that one section of the city can have three MRT lines next to each other,” Pan said.

The proposed line — an underground mid-capacity line — would not be cost-effective, he said.

Guangfu Elementary School Parents Association chairman Yu Yi (游藝) said the 10-year construction period would greatly impact the air quality and noise levels in the area.

“Where does the TRTC plan to dispose of the soil? Are you going to fill wetlands and valleys?” Yu said.

A Taipei City Government representative surnamed Shih (施) responded: “Many major cities around the world have a circular line to connect different subway lines. The North-South Line will do that, so its cost-effectiveness will be very high.”

As for the construction nuisances, Shih said the city would guarantee at least a 3m wide sidewalk around the school, while the soil has been sold to companies reclaiming land.

“Though underground tracks are more expensive, the air and noise pollution is lower. Noise levels will be lower than 55 decibels,” Shih said.

Losheng Youth Alliance representative Hong Shen-han (洪申翰) spoke out against the TRTC plan to put a MRT system generator plant at a site close to the Losheng Sanatorium (樂生療養院) in Sinjhuang.

Hong said the construction work has caused the roofs and walls in nearby residential areas to crack.

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