Kinmen officials yesterday said they are considering importing water from China in yet another sign of warming relations.
The move would mark another significant step forward in the improvement of ties, since the fortified Kinmen island group was a flashpoint during the Cold War and was shelled from China at one point.
Officials from Kinmen have discussed a proposal to use ships to transport water from Xiamen, a coastal city in China’s Fujian Province, just kilometers away.
Water supplies, mostly from desalination, underground supplies and a tiny dam, are sufficient at the moment to meet the needs of some 100,000 civilians and of troops stationed there.
“But water supplies may fall short in the near future if more tourists, many of them from the mainland, visit Kinmen,” Kinmen County Government official Chen Chaur-jiung said.
From a long-term point of view, the Kinmen government hopes to instal pipes linking Xiamen and Kinmen, Chen said.
“The idea of buying water from China was hard to imagine a few years ago,” he said.
However, the Ministry of Economic Affairs mooted buying water from China for Kinmen back as 2001 and 2002, though then minister of economic affairs Lin Yi-fu (林義夫) said the government would not buy large quantities from China for fear of being manipulated by Beijing. However, in the end no purchases were made.
In 2008, the prospect was reviewed again, including the idea of China laying a 26km undersea pipeline to Kinmen, with the Kinmen County Government responsible for water delivery pipes and purification treatment facilities. At the time, Water Resources Agency officials said the proposal to import water was not based on a water shortage, “but on the poor quality of Kinmen’s water.”
However, security concerns were raised once again, as well as questions of cost efficiency.
The Chinese army fired more than 470,000 shells on Kinmen and several other islets in a 44-day artillery bombardment beginning on Aug. 23, 1958, killing a 618 servicemen and civilians and injuring more than 2,600.
Additional reporting by Staff writer