Farming rights activists and lawmakers said yesterday they would file a profiteering lawsuit against the Central Taiwan Science Park and the Changhua Irrigation Association over an aqueduct project in southern Changhua County.
Initially, the science park planned to build a 23km underground pipeline to divert water from Cizaipijun (莿仔埤圳) — the major irrigation channel in southern Changhua — in Sijhou Township (溪州) to Erlin Township (二林) for the science park’s Erlin campus.
In addition to continuing protests by local farmers against what they describe as a “water-jacking” project, the National Science Council discovered that the project was not as popular among businesses as they had initially expected.
The council said it also found out that there was no long-term stable water supply.
As a result, the council announced earlier this year that it would seek to transform the Erlin campus and would probably no longer need the aqueduct.
Although Council Minister Cyrus Chu (朱敬一) announced that the project would be stopped, it continued.
According to the council’s legal advisor, the contract cannot be suspended.
“What kind of contract is this that has no clause for a suspension [of work]?” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Cheng Li-chun (鄭麗君) said at a news conference held at the legislature in Taipei.
“It is quite suspicious that the government — and Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) — insists on keeping the project going, despite the fact that it could be a useless, money-burning aqueduct,” he said.
“Someone should shoulder the responsibility and step down,” she added.
DPP Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) said the science park could be profiteering from Taiwan Water Co and the Changhua Irrigation Association with taxpayers’ money.
She said that the science park is spending NT$2.3 billion (US$78 million) on building the aqueduct for the irrigation association, and it buys water from the association at NT$3.3 per tonne.
While the science park spends NT$92.5 on processing one tonne of water, it sells the water for NT$1.19 per tonne to Taiwan Water Co, and the Taiwan Water Co sells the water to science park businesses at a higher price, Lin said.
“While the science park runs on taxpayers’ money, Taiwan Water Co could make NT$100 million to NT$200 million a year, while the irrigation association could make money not only from selling water, but also from selling the mud from the aqueduct’s sediment pond, which is rich in minerals and is very good for farm use,” she said.
Lu Shih-wei (陸詩薇), an attorney at Wild at Heart Legal Defense Foundation, accused the science park of involvement in profiteering.
“In addition, the Changhua Irrigation Association is in violation of the Water Act [水利法], which stipulates that farm use [of water] has priority over industrial use,” Lu said.
“These are issues we would like to bring to the attention of the court,” he added.