Farmers from Sijhou Township (溪州), Changhua County, accompanied by the Taiwan Rural Front civic group and legislators, gathered in front of the legislature in Taipei yesterday to protest against the redirection of water traditionally used for agriculture to accommodate the fourth-phase expansion project at the Central Taiwan Science Park.
Wu Yin-ning (吳音寧), a writer and resident of Sijhou, said generations of farmers had depended on irrigation water provided by a canal that runs through their land, but now the government is set to construct a 24.5km underground water pipe appropriating water from the source to provide 66,500 tonnes of water per day for the science park.
Wu questioned the legitimacy of constructing the water pipes, which is said to be a temporary solution before a long-term water source — the proposed Dadu Weir — is built.
Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times
Legislators have yet to pass a budget for the pipes and the proposed weir has not undergone an environmental impact assessment by the Environmental Protection Administration.
Holding a bunch of withered rice, farmer Pao Wan-tien (包萬添) said that with irrigation water available for four days and halted for six days, the rice crop had grown into “blank cartridges” with no ripe rice.
Perng Ming-hwei (彭明輝), a professor at National Tsing Hua University, said that if several countries shifted from fossil fuel energy to biomass energy in the future and if Taiwan’s food self-sufficiency rate remained so low at about 30 percent, the nation risked facing a food crisis.
Taiwan Rural Front spokeswoman Tsai Pei-hui (蔡培慧), an associate professor at Shih Hsin University’s Graduate Institute for Social Transformation Studies, said recently that many economists had said that agricultural use of water accounted for about 70 percent of total water usage, which seemed wasteful.
“However, agricultural-use water returns to the natural water cycle in the land; it isn’t polluted like industrial-use water,” she said.
Furthermore, the water, which should be seen as a public asset, was being sold cheaply — at NT$3.3 per tonne — to the park by the local irrigation association, Tsai said.
In a public hearing following the protest, Chang Ching-chang (張敬昌), director of the Department of Irrigation and Engineering at the Council of Agriculture, said that while some farmers believed the shortage in irrigation water was the result of water being rerouted to the science park, in reality the main reason was that the nation had received less rainfall this year.
The irrigation association will only transfer water for industrial use when there is excess water supply, Chang said, adding that industrial-use water at the park would account for 1.6 percent of the total water supply.
Water pipes are only for short-term use and the long-term solution is the proposed Dadu Weir, park director-general Yang Wen-ke (楊文科) said, adding that alternatives would be explored if the weir is not built.
National Science Council Minister Lee Lou-chuang (李羅權) said the council would look to attract high-tech industries that do not need substantial amounts of water to the park, in hopes of benefiting both farmers and the economy.
The farmers also demanded that the construction of a proposed sedimentation tank near the park, along with the water pipes — whose cost is estimated at NT$2.3 billion (US$79.6 million) — be stopped immediately until the government gave a clear explanation on alternative solutions should the Dadu Weir project fail to pass an environmental impact assessment.
“I don’t have much to say, because I feel like my stomach has filled with blood,” Pao said. “We have to bend down and plough to feed ourselves, but how are we to make a living with these withered crops? When you [governmental officials] sit there and make decisions with your pen, many of us become victims.”
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠), a former Changhua County commissioner, concluded the hearing by asking the officials to submit an evaluation and alternative plan to the legislature within three months.
MRNA VACCINE: Heart inflammation is rare, but possible after a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 shot, and students need to be aware of possible side effects, an expert said As Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccinations for students aged 12 to 17 are to begin on campuses on Thursday next week, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday urged recipients to be especially watchful for five signs of possible myocarditis or pericarditis, which are rare adverse reactions to some COVID-19 vaccines. The Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices convener Lee Ping-ing (李秉穎) joined the CECC’s daily news briefing to report on possible side effects after receiving a BioNTech vaccine. Lee said that cases of myocarditis and pericarditis have been observed in people in the US who have received mRNA COVID-19
National Taiwan University Hospital’s (NTUH) Ethical Review Committee on Tuesday approved the hospital’s application to conduct human trials of mixed Moderna and Medigen COVID-19 vaccines. The hospital yesterday said that 220 volunteers aged 20 to 70 who have received one dose of a Moderna vaccine eight to 12 weeks ago are to be enrolled in the program. The volunteers are to be separated into two groups — a treatment group and a control group — and a double-blind study would be conducted, assigning Medigen or Moderna vaccines to the groups on a random basis, it said. The trial is expected to start
BY OTHER MEANS: China could see CPTPP membership as a means of circumventing trade restrictions imposed by the US, amid an ongoing trade dispute between them The US could invoke a clause in its trade agreement with Canada and Mexico to block China’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a government official said yesterday. Under Article 32.10 of the Exceptions and General Provisions of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), if either Canada or Mexico enter a free-trade agreement with a nonmarket economy — such as China — the US could withdraw from the agreement. “If that clause applies to multilateral free-trade agreements such as the CPTPP — which Mexico and Canada are members of — that might be cause for the two
TAIWAN TIES: The foreign ministry said like-minded nations continue to express support for Taiwan’s ties with Lithuania, highlighting a letter by Slovenia’s PM US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday saluted Lithuania’s championing of democracy in Taiwan and Belarus. Lithuania in July agreed to let Taiwan open a representative office using its own name, prompting a pressure campaign by China. “We stand against economic coercion, including that being exerted by China,” Blinken said as he welcomed Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis in Washington. “We stand strongly for democracy, including in Belarus, where we’re very much working together,” Blinken said. Landsbergis told reporters afterward that he and Blinken discussed “economic, financial, political measures” that can be taken to withstand Chinese pressure. “We discussed various possible measures