Farmers from Changhua County’s Sijhou Township (溪洲) yesterday met with central government officials at the legislature, demanding clarification on questions surrounding an aqueduct and sedimentation tank construction plan to accommodate the fourth-phase expansion project at the Central Taiwan Science Park (CTSP).
Farmers and their supporters have protested several times against the government’s decision to build an aqueduct to divert water to the park from a canal source that Sijhou rice farmers depend on for irrigation.
Protests have centered on whether farmers or the science park should have priority over the water and the duration of the diversion for the science park.
Hsieh Pao-yuan (謝寶元), a farmer and president of the Alliance Against Water-Jacking by the CTSP, said that because of shortage, irrigation required “waiting six days and irrigating four days,” and that the farms obviously had a irrigation water shortage problem already.
The farmers said the water diversion to the science park would rob them of already insufficient irrigation water.
Hsieh asked why government authorities always say that there is enough water for irrigation and promise there will be enough after the water diversion construction is finished.
Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, Taiwan attorney Severia Lu (陸詩薇) said that according to the Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) standards for environmental impact assessments for development activity, areas of more than 10 hectares must pass an assessment.
Because the planned sedimentation tank construction area is about 14 hectares, it must apply for an assessment, Lu said.
Moreover, Lu cited the Chang Hua Irrigation Association’s (CHIA) construction plan, which wrote that: “extraction of sand and gravel is involved” in the construction of the sedimentation tank.
Wu Yin-ning (吳音寧), a writer and chief secretary of Sijhou Township Administration, said the National Science Council (NSC) and the Council of Agriculture (COA) had been shifting responsibility for oversight of the science park water supply construction.
Science Park Administration director-general Yang Wen-ke (楊文科) said the sand and gravel extracted would all be used on site and therefore no assessment was necessary.
The water redirection project was commissioned to the irrigation association, he said, adding that the NSC was the competent authority for the science park project.
Chang Hua Irrigation Association general manager Lin Yung-chuan (林永傳) said that while the budget for construction was provided by the NSC, the execution of the construction was commissioned to the association.
In addition, Lin said the aqueduct, which would appropriate water from the source to provide 66,500 tonnes of water per day for the science park, was only for short-term use, and that the aquaduct would be used for agriculture in the future.
Department of Irrigation and Engineering director Chang -Ching-Chang (張敬昌) said there was a problem with determining who should be in charge because of the different usages in the short, medium and long term.
After two hours, it was concluded that an EIA was necessary and that the CHIA should be in charge of applying.
Taiwan Rural Front researcher Hsu Po-jen (許博任) said he remained skeptical of the CHIA’s claims that no assessment was necessary because the water flow velocity was below the regulated standard.