Civic groups and residents from Pingtung County and Greater Kaohsiung yesterday held a protest in front of the Environmental Protection Administration just as officials were about to hold an environmental impact assessment meeting on construction of the “Gaoping Great Lakes” (高屏大湖) as part of a water diversion project in the south.
The protesters said the 697 hectare artificial lakes, planned by the Water Resources Agency’s Southern Region Water Resources Office, would greatly affect the water supply for shrimp farming, agriculture and household use.
The Gaoping Great Lakes project, located at the border of Pingtung County’s Ligang Township (里港) and Greater Kaohsiung’s Meinong District (美濃), was initially known as the Jiyang artificial lake project, an alternative plan to the Zengwun River (曾文溪) Cross-Border Channeling project that passed an assessment in 2002.
However, the Jiyang artificial lake project faced strong opposition from local residents and environmentalists throughout the decade, with construction budgets having been cut many times by the legislature over the years.
The now-renamed project was bundled with a project to ensure stable water supply in the area, with planned construction costing an estimated NT$16.1 billion (US$545.5 million).
Representatives from more than 35 civic groups opposing the project said it would turn farmland about 27 times the size of Da-an Forest Park in Taipei into artificial lakes 12m deep, and 3m-to-5m dikes would obstruct the groundwater and rainwater for irrigation in the area, causing even more serious flood problems.
“It doesn’t make sense to sacrifice the lives of us local residents and pump water from the area where we live to supply water to other areas,” said You Chi-ching (尤啟精), warden of Ligang’s Jhonghe Village (中和).
Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Lin Shih-chia (林世嘉) said the dikes risked blocking rainwater infiltration and causing floods in Greater Kaohsiung’s Meinong and Cishan districts (旗山), as well as Ligang Township, during the rainy season.
The tapwater leakage rate in Greater Kaoshiung was about 24 percent, the protesters said, urging the agency to spend money on improving the water-channeling leakage problem in the area instead of spending billions of dollars to build the artificial lakes.