The proposed Wanli Hydroelectric Project in Hualien County would have a clear impact on the environment and a second phase of assessments should be held, a panel of experts from the Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) environmental impact assessment committee said yesterday.
Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) had previously proposed a similar hydroelectric project, which passed an assessment in 2002. However, concerns emerged about the project’s water diversion plan once construction began and the project was canceled in 2005.
Taipower proposed the Wanli construction project, a modified version of the previous plan, in 2009.
An alliance of residents from Hualien County’s Wanrong Township (萬榮), civic groups and environmental protection activists rallied in front of the EPA yesterday afternoon before the assessment panel commenced.
Holding a bottle of clear water and a bottle of muddy water, alliance member Chang Kuo-Jen (張國仁), a resident of Fenglin Township (鳳林), said the geology of the upper Wanli River (萬里溪) was “fractured land made of schist” and that whenever there was heavy rainfall or a typhoon, the river would become muddy for days.
Chang said the project’s NT$10.9 billion (US$376.8 million) price tag did not make it economically viable and the dam would often be filled with mud from landslides, meaning that additional money would be needed to clean it.
Residents also fear that development in the fragile area would turn it into a second Siaolin Village (小林), which was completely wiped out by landslides when Typhoon Morakot hit in 2009, Chang said.
Other residents fear the power plant would deprive farmers of water for irrigation and undermine the development of natural hot springs in the area, Chang said.
A number of residents have expressed strong support for the project, saying it would bring jobs to the area, but Chen Lin (陳麟), a student from the local Taroko tribe, asked how many jobs would go to local residents, since construction would only last a decade.
What is needed instead is sustainable development, Chen said.
A representative official from the Hualien County Government said the county government had filed a report with the Ministry of Economic Affairs stating its opinion that the project is unsuitable for development and that Hualien’s environment should be protected.
An assessment panel member said Taipower was overoptimistic in its evaluation and neglected to mention the possible risks of land collapse in its report.
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