Tue, Aug 25, 2009 - Page 3 News List

MORAKOT: THE AFTERMATH: Activists slam Cabinet’s reconstruction bill

VIEW FROM AFAR One key criticism of the proposal is that no attempt was made to involve local communities in the reconstruction of their own homes and regions

By Loa Iok-sin, Shih Hsiu-chuan and Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Civic, environmental and Aboriginal groups slammed the Cabinet yesterday over its proposed typhoon reconstruction bill, saying the proposal lacks a mechanism to involve victims in the rebuilding of their hometowns.

To speed up the reconstruction of areas devastated by Typhoon Morakot, the Cabinet’s bill aims to coordinate efforts among central and local government authorities, allowing reconstruction to be exempt from several laws the Cabinet believes would slow down the process. The bill would also provide a legal basis for banning human habitation in risky areas and for forced eviction of communities from those areas.

The Cabinet plans to spend as much as NT$100 billion (US$30 billion) on reconstruction.

Many non-governmental groups have attacked the Cabinet’s plan.

“The reconstruction bill is nothing more than a bill to expand government power and to waste taxpayers’ money,” Green Party Taiwan Secretary-General Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) told a forum yesterday.

The bill “gives overwhelming power to an incapable government,” he said.

Pan said that waiving laws such as the Urban Planning Act (都市計劃法), Water Conservancy Act (水利法) and Environmental Impact Assessment Act (環境影響評估法) could turn the reconstruction effort into an environmental disaster that might trigger more severe devastation in future.

“We needed to rescue victims as quickly as possible, but our incapable government failed to do so. And while we need to carefully plan reconstruction to prevent future disasters, the government is trying to do it too hastily,” Pan said.

‘HORRIBLE BILL’

Tseng Hsu-cheng (曾旭正), chairman of Community Empowering Society Taiwan, said compared with the Provisional Act Governing Reconstruction After the 921 Earthquake (九二一震災重建暫行條例) adopted 10 years ago, “the draft typhoon reconstruction bill is horrible.”

“I think the reconstruction bill would have been much better if the Cabinet just spent one night copying the 921 reconstruction bill,” Tseng said.

He said there has been no attempt to involve local communities in the reconstruction or rebuild local industries.

Yabi Dali, a social worker who has worked in isolated communities in the Alishan (阿里山) area, agreed.

“Government officials are talking about resettling entire villages while the villagers who are still cut off from the outside don’t know about the plan,” she said.

“The reconstruction effort should not only coordinate different local and central government agencies, but should also involve representatives of the communities to be reconstructed,” she said.

Lahuy Icyeh, secretary of the Smangus Aboriginal Community Development Association, said community members should be allowed to rebuild their own houses.

Since about 80 percent of the disaster areas are in Aboriginal regions, Lahuy called on the government to respect Aborigines’ wishes to rebuild their communities near where they used to live if it’s not possible to rebuild the communities on the former sites.

“Don’t think that it’s good for the survivors if you move them somewhere close to a 7-Eleven or McDonald’s,” he said.

Liglove Awu, a member of the Alliance for Reconstruction of Aboriginal Communities in Southern Taiwan, said that since the Council of Indigenous Peoples has conducted a survey of traditional Aboriginal domains, “you can always resettle Aboriginal communities somewhere safe within their traditional domains instead of moving everybody to the plains.”

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