Environmental groups yesterday expressed opposition to the reactivation of a project to divert water from the Cishan (旗山溪) and Laonong (荖濃溪) rivers into the Zengwen Reservoir (曾文水庫) on concerns that construction could once again be destroyed by forces of nature.
The project was initiated by the Water Resources Agency (WRA) to stabilize the water supply in southern Taiwan. Construction involved the area from Taoyuan District (桃源) and Namasiya District (那瑪夏) in Greater Kaohsiung to Dapu Township (大埔) in Chiayi County.
Thirty percent of the project was completed when it was damaged by Typhoon Morakot in August 2009.
Construction was put on hold after residents and environmental groups blamed the project for the landslide that wiped out Siaolin Village (小林) in Jiasian District (甲仙), Greater Kaohsiung.
The agency recently redrew a five-year plan for the project, in which it added several reinforcement designs to increase the structural safety of the infrastructure, including changing from a horseshoe-shaped tunnel lining to a circular shape. By law, the agency must submit those changes to the Environmental Impact Assessment Committee for approval.
The committee yesterday ruled that the agency must provide additional information for review.
Chen Jiao-hua (陳椒華), spokesperson of the Taiwan Water Resources Protection Union, said in the review session that the project would traverse many geographically fractured zones.
The agency should not allow funding for the continued execution of the project without a full grasp of the risks involved, she said.
Chen said the Council of Agriculture had indicated that high mountains comprised a lot of unstable ground and added that typhoons could trigger mudslides and collapses that would destroy the structures again.
She called on the government to stop budgeting for the project.
She said the project could be like the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, in which the government has already invested more than NT$233 billion (US$8 billion) although the plant has yet to become operational because of safety issues.
In response, WRA representative Lin Yuan-pong (林元鵬) said the mudslides on Aug. 8, 2009, had caused changes to the course of the Laonong River. He said the changes in the project were made to reinforce the aquatic tunnel so it would not collapse, adding that other construction in the project was stopped for further examination and would not need an additional budget.