Residents of the Atayal village of Slag — administratively known as Sinle Village (新樂) — in Hsinchu County’s Jianshih Township (尖石) yesterday called on the government to stop all construction on the Shuitian River (水田溪) that flows through the village, as it has threatened villagers’ lives and properties.
“I am here to protest because we’ve had enough,” senior tribal leader Tseng Wen-wu (曾文武) said in the Atayal language at a news conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.
“The Soil and Water Conservation Bureau’s (SWCB) construction to concretize the river bank has shrunk the river course, leading to floods in the village,” he said.
Tseng said the village had never experienced flooding before, but since the construction started earlier this year, the village has been flooded several times.
Atayal singer Inka Mbing, who is a resident of the village, agreed with Tseng.
“For a long time, private developers from outside the village have built too many buildings in this Atayal village in the mountains, which has led to overdevelopment on the mountain slopes,” Ingka said. “We’ve lived side by side peacefully with the river for hundreds of years and had no problem — we suspect that this new construction is meant to benefit outside developers.”
“Our village is a traditional Atayal domain, our way of life must be respected,” she said. “We call on the SWCB to stop all construction in the river and that the Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) take back all lands that have been bought by private developers with no Aboriginal identity.”
Besides protesting at the news conference, several villagers also signed and delivered a written petition to the Hsinchu County Government, the County Council and the Jianshih Township Office.
Responding to the criticism, SWCB official Pai Chao-chin (白朝金) denied that the bureau disrespects Aboriginal rights to traditional domains and said the bureau had started the construction project on the request of the Jianshih Township Office “and we use an environmentally friendly method of construction.”
CIP official Tsao Kai-ling (曹凱玲) said the council has no right to “take back” a plot of private land, but promised to help negotiate between villagers and the SWCB, while also making sure that all construction within traditional Aboriginal domains follow the relevant laws.