Sat, Oct 31, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Erlin local residents protest science park

ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS The township’s residents say the science park would destroy their fishing industry with polluted water and cause major land subsidence

By Vincent Y. Chao  /  STAFF REPORTER

Democratic Progressive Party legislators hold up placards in protest at a government decision to relax regulations on the importation of US beef innards during the legislative session in Taipei yesterday.

PHOTO: LIU HSIN-DE, TAIPEI TIMES

Dozens of protesters from ­Changhua County turned out in force in Taipei yesterday to protest the government’s proposed science park in the county’s Erlin Township (二林).

Fearing pollution from the proposed facilities would affect their quality of life, the protesters said they were also concerned about jobs, the environment and the area’s already precarious water supply.

Scores of police stood in front of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) headquarters, where officials were deciding on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the proposal.

The committee, led by EPA Minister Stephen Shen (沈世宏), later passed the assessment without major revisions.

Protesters said they wanted to keep Erlin, located in central Taiwan between Yunlin County and the Jhuoshuei River (濁水溪), as one of the few remaining un-industrialized coasts in western Taiwan.

“All this pollution from the science park is going to kill off our livelihood,” a protester named Lin Lien-tzung (林連宗) said. “[The government] doesn’t care about our farmers or our fishermen.”

Holding up pictures showcasing the already polluted river, protesters said that additional pollution from the science park would cripple the area’s fishing industry, affecting up to 20,000 people.

“Most of our fishermen do not have the ability to get a job in the high-tech industry,” Lin said. “Where will these people go?”

Despite Premier Wu Den-yih’s (吳敦義) promise last Tuesday to pump the waste water 3km away, the protesters said this solution was not enough.

They also said the proposal’s huge water demand would exasperate Erlin’s ground subsidence problem, adding that Erlin was already sinking 8.4cm per year, the worst subsidence in the nation.

They were joined by former EIA committee member Thomas Chan (詹順貴). Chan resigned three years ago to protest what he saw as the EPA’s lax attitude toward environmental regulations.

“If this assessment can pass just like that, we might as well get rid of the entire process altogether,” Chan said. “Many concerns and problems were raised, but the committee disregarded them all.”

While Shen said he would take into account the protesters’ concerns by ensuring that regulations and restrictions were rigorously upheld, the EPA remained steadfast in its decision.

Shen said the EPA’s assessment committee had already heard numerous times from a panel of ­experts. Each time it was told that this project should move forward as soon as possible.

In response to concerns raised about water supplies, representatives from the Central Taiwan Science Park — the government organization responsible for three other science parks — said that only 3 percent of the park’s water would be drawn from the area’s groundwater. The rest would come from the state-run Taiwan Water Corp.

Members of the assessment committee also said that water pollution was within “normal” standards and that it would not affect the fishing industry in the area, especially if it were pumped away from local rivers.

Changhua County Commissioner Cho Po-yuan (卓伯源) agreed, saying that Changhua has long been neglected by the high-tech industry.

Developing high-tech industries along the western coastline was one of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) election promises last year.

“It’s not fair for Changhua to be left out of the country’s development … because of isolated protests,” Cho said. “This isn’t the first science park in Taiwan.”

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