Thu, Jul 12, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Farmers hold water rally

FLOOD OF ANGER:A coalition of groups staged the protest to highlight their fury at what they say amounts to a ‘hijacking’ of water supplies to service a science park

By Loa Iok-sin and Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporters

Environmentalists, farmers and lawmakers protest outside the Control Yuan in Taipei yesterday, accusing the Changhua County Irrigation Association of lying about the amount of water diverted to the Central Taiwan Science Park.

Photo: Wang Min-wei, Taipei Times

Environmentalists, farmers and lawmakers yesterday accused the Changhua County Irrigation Association of causing subsidence with a network of 51 water wells in the southern part of the county and accused the association of lying about the amount of water it supplies to the Central Taiwan Science Park (CTSP).

“Stop hijacking water from farmers,” and “Seal the association’s water wells,” several environmentalists and farmers shouted as they rallied outside the Control Yuan in Taipei, where they filed a complaint demanding it launch a probe into the subsidence.

“Subsidence is a serious problem in Changhua and Yunlin counties, and the 51 deep water wells drilled by the irrigation association that draw billions of liters of underground water are certainly the cause,” Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Huang Wen-ling (黃文玲) told reporters. “This shows that there’s already insufficient water for irrigation and the irrigation association should not supply water to the science park’s Erlin Campus in Erlin Township [二林].”

Huang was referring to construction of an underground pipe, which started earlier this year, as well as a settling pond which deviates water away from the largest irrigation channel in southern Changhua, Cizaipijun (莿仔埤圳), to Erlin Campus.

Cheng Sen-yih (鄭森益), an 80-year-old farmer from Changhua County’s Sijhou Township (溪州), which is located at Cizaipijun’s source and is one of the townships impacted by the project, called on the government to show concern for farmers.

“I’ve been a farmer for 60 years, Changhua has the best soil and water for agriculture because the water is rich in minerals,” he said. “Water is life to agriculture and agriculture is our life, taking water away from us is taking away our means of survival ... How can the government hijack farming water for the big corporations, benefiting only a few at the expense of so many people?”

Wu Li-huei (吳麗慧), representative of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union’s Changhua Office, said that because of earlier development projects, such as Formosa Petrochemial Co’s Mailiao refinery complex in Mailiao Township (麥寮) in neighboring Yunlin County, water was already scarce.

“Currently, irrigation water [through Cizaipijun] is only supplied four days in every 10, many farmers have to spend a lot of money to drill wells so they can have a sufficient supply of water and even the irrigation association is digging wells,” Wu said. “These phenomena shows how serious the water shortage issue is, so shouldn’t the irrigation association turn down the request to supply water to the Central Taiwan Science Park?”

Chen Chiao-hua (陳椒華), spokeswoman for the Taiwan Alliance for the Protection of Water Resources, said the science park should find other sources of water, including recycling used water, adding that the National Science Council could provide financial assistance to help improve its water usage.

“If the government is sincere about solving the issue of subsidence then it should not lead the water-jacking project,” she said.

At present, Taiwan’s food security rate stands at about 30 percent, which is not enough, the groups said, adding that as a result water used for agriculture should not be sacrificed for industrial use.

In addition, they also urged the Control Yuan to investigate the Central Taiwan Science Park’s fourth expansion project plan for what they called excessive budgets — such as spending NT$450 million (US$15 million) on constructing a 1.1 hectare wetland, which contrasts to several existing constructed wetlands over 5 hectares in size and which took tens, and not hundreds, of millions of NT dollars to construct.

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