Activists for the preservation of Losheng (Happy Life) Sanatorium yesterday engaged in verbal clashes with Department of Rapid Transport Systems (DORTS) officials yesterday morning, as they demanded that the department vouch for the safety of the Mass Rapid Transit’s (MRT) newly opened Xinzhuang line, but were rebuffed.
“DORTS must take responsibility for the MRT’s safety,” dozens of young activists shouted as they rallied outside the department’s headquarters in Taipei.
Losheng Sanatorium, located in Sinjhuang District (新莊), New Taipei City (新北市), was constructed in the 1930s to quarantine people with Hansen’s disease — also known as leprosy.
A campaign to preserve the sanatorium was launched more than five years ago after the location was chosen for an MRT station and maintenance depot. Original construction plans required the demolition of the sanatorium.
In May 2007, the government came up with a compromise plan that would preserve a small part of the original site, but as construction progressed, subsidence began to occur because of the unstable geological composition of the site.
Although the MRT Xinzhuang line was officially opened on Thursday, the last two stations remain closed because of the subsidence problem.
Conservationists, who have long warned about geological issues, rallied outside DORTS headquarters, asking officials to promise that “the maintenance depot in Sinjhuang and the Losheng Sanatorium will not be affected by the construction.”
However, deputy director of DORTS’ North District Project Office, Hsieh Yu-yen (謝宇衍), who received the protesters, refused to make any commitment.
“This is like a blank check and we cannot guarantee that the construction site will remain 100 percent safe, especially when natural disasters such as earthquakes or typhoons occur,” Hsieh said.
Youth Alliance for Losheng member Tsai Tsung-ta (蔡聰達) criticized Hsieh’s response.
“DORTS came up with a so-called ‘long-term safety plan’ last week, but now they are unable to promise that the construction will not be a threat to the sanatorium,” Tsai said.
Another activist, surnamed Wang (王), explained that they had gone to DORTS because, when they petitioned President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) last month, Ma’s office said it would refer the case to DORTS.
“Since the president gave DORTS the responsibility to keep the construction safe, but DORTS refuses to make good on that promise, we will go back to Ma,” Wang said.