Thu, Oct 18, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Tainan residents decry rail plans

ONE-TRACK MIND:Locals from the southern city have claimed that plans altering the route of a new underground rail system are primarily a land grab

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Greater Tainan residents hold placards in front of the Environmental Protection Administration in Taipei yesterday to protest against a plan to demolish their homes to dig a railway tunnel.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

Residents of Greater Tainan yesterday protested at the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) in Taipei against an underground railway project they said would lead to the expropriation of about 400 households and called on the government to respect the Constitution and to re-evaluate the project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA).

On Tuesday afternoon the same group of people gathered in front of the offices of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) and later marched to the Presidential Office and the legislature. They handed a petition to authorities stating that the infrastructure plans are in violation of the Constitution and should be halted.

During the half-day protest in Taipei, the group’s spokesperson, Chen Chih-hsiao (陳致曉), said the planning for the underground railway project had been going on for more than a decade and that the route was originally planned to be built underneath the current railway line.

However, the Executive Yuan approved a renewed plan in 2009 to move the project eastward, which meant the appropriation of an additional 5.1 hectares of private land, Chen said, adding that the expanded plan would result in the loss of about 400 households from the neighborhood.

The association said it doubts the ministry’s reasons for the rezoning, which include protecting the city’s historic railway station and cost reductions. Many residents suspect the change is so that the government can benefit by developing the appropriated land.

Chen said that some people believe the residents are only protesting because they were not offered the compensation they demanded.

“In fact, we never discussed monetary compensation — our only demand is to stop the project from moving eastwards,” Chen said

Chen said the railway project should be limited to its original plan to reduce the amount of land that is being expropriated and that the economic and emotional impacts on the local residents, as well as the impact the project will have on the environment, should also be taken into consideration.

The association said the land expropriation in the new project plan is unnecessary and lacks legitimacy because it is forcing residents to sacrifice their homes.

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