Dumping bags of soil onto the construction site of a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) maintenance depot on the border of New Taipei City (新北市) and Taoyuan County, Losheng (Happy Family) Sanatorium preservation activists yesterday vowed to fill in the construction site — which has allegedly triggered landslides on the hill where the sanatorium stands — by themselves if the government did not do so.
“If the government does nothing, we’ll do something,” Losheng preservation activists shouted as they dumped bags of soil onto the construction site of an MRT maintenance depot on the border of New Taipei City’s Sinjhuang District (新莊) and Taoyuan County’s Gueishan Township (龜山).
Before dumping the soil, the activists and Losheng residents held a ceremony to inform the -spirits of deceased Losheng residents and the Land God (土地公) of what they planned to do, asking them for their blessing.
The construction site was formerly part of a sanatorium that was completed in the 1930s and housed people with Hansen’s disease, commonly known as leprosy. However, when construction workers flattened a hill on the land to make way for the maintenance depot, it caused landslides on a portion of the sanatorium that was preserved, activists said, adding that it led to cracks in the remaining sanatorium buildings.
“Three centimeter to 4cm cracks have been appearing in buildings since March last year, and the Department of Rapid Transit Systems responded by suspending construction in July,” said Wang Wei-min (王偉民), a civil engineer who has been a long-time supporter of the movement. “The department supposedly fixed the problem, then restarted construction in September. However, cracks began to appear again, so construction was halted again at the end of October last year.”
The cracks should not be growing because construction has stopped, Wang said, but in a worrisome sign, they have been growing wider, which could mean there is a “continuous landslide underground.”
Wang said he was worried about the possibility of a massive landslide in the coming rainy and typhoon seasons.
Since October, no progress has been made on the depot because the department had been unable to find a permanent solution to the landslide issue.
“There would be no problem if the department simply abandoned the maintenance depot project, -because, as we can see, the Sinjhuang MRT line has already been inaugurated without it,” said Chung Yuan Christian University architecture professor Yu Chao-chin (喻肇青), who is also a long-time supporter of the preservation campaign. “In fact, the Taoyuan County Government said it would welcome an extension of the MRT line into its jurisdiction, and it has already prepared a plot of land to be used for the maintenance depot — so why not take the alternative plan?”