A small number of concerned residents rallied in front of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) in Taipei yesterday, calling on the government to clarify the construction plans for Tamkang Bridge (淡江大橋) and include more civic participation in the construction process.
Green Party central executive committee member Wang Chung-ming (王鐘銘) led about 10 people in the rally.
The bridge will span the Tamsui River (淡水河) in New Taipei City (新北市), linking Bali Township (八里) and Tamsui Township.
The project received conditional approval in 1999 from the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) committee, but construction was postponed because of the Tambei Expressway, which did not get approval until June.
The Directorate-General of Highways said the bridge would be convenient for residents, boost economic development and help ease holiday traffic. However, the area has been considered a famous scenic spot and one of the “Eight Views of Taiwan” (台灣八景) for decades. It is feared that the proposed bridge would obstruct the view.
Wang said the plan would ruin the scenery and questioned the procedural legitimacy of separating the bridge construction plan from the expressway construction plan. The government should have a total development plan for the area and evaluate the impact on and benefits to the natural environment, traffic, culture and economy as a whole, rather than individual segments.
“Some people say the sunset could still be seen on the new bridge, but actually the unique part of the sunset in Tamsui is that you can see the landscape of Bali and Tamsui on both sides of the river mouth, with the sun setting into the ocean,” a local resident surnamed Yan (顏) said.
Following the rally, an EIA meeting on the environmental impact analysis for the alterations to the original plan was held at the EPA’s headquarters in the afternoon.
The main alteration was to widen the bridge from 33m to 44m to include two-way light rail tracks, moving a highway ramp 500m south and changes to the interchange design.
During the meeting, two local residents and a representative from an environmental organization said the public hearings lacked civic participation because they were not announced early enough and very few people attended them.
During the discussion, two committee members asked whether the plan required a new EIA evaluation, because the environment and situation may have changed over the past decade. They said widening the bridge was not a minor alteration.
The meeting concluded that the developers must provide additional information, including an impact assessment for nearby nature reserves and riverbanks, impact analyses for different periods during the day, more public input and public hearings and an evaluation of the safety of water activities in the area.