Accompanied by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wu Yi-chen (吳宜臻), Miaoli County residents yesterday urged the Water Resources Agency (WRA) to abort its planned construction of the Tianhuahu Reservoir (天花湖水庫) on the border of Miaoli’s Touwu (頭屋) and Gongguan (公館) townships.
Construction plans for the reservoir were initiated more than a decade ago, and while local residents have opposed the project for several years — gathering a petition with more than 10,000 signatures in 2010 — the plan gained conditional approval at an environmental impact assessment meeting earlier this month.
Wu said residents are concerned that the cross-watershed diversion engineering project could lead to possible mudslides, such as the one in Greater Kaohsiung’s Siaolin Village (小林), which was buried by a massive mudslide when Typhoon Morakot struck the area in 2009 and which it was said to have been caused by the Tsengwen Reservoir (曾文水庫) project.
“The cross-watershed diversion causes the water vein in the mountain to become dried and cracked, and if there is sudden and heavy rain during the dry season it could lead to a massive landslide,” convener of the Southern Waters Alliance Lu Tai-ying (魯台營) said.
The planned reservoir is also located on a faultline, so it may also threaten lives in the two nearby townships, Lu said.
There are already five reservoirs in the county that provide enough water for the nearby townships, Gongguan Township Elected Representatives member Chou Feng-chia (周逢甲) said, adding that the residents are also concerned about the project diverting water from the Houlong River (後龍溪) and adversely affecting the environment or causing desertification in downstream areas.
Chiang Kui-hsi (江貴熙), vice chairperson of Touwu Township Elected Representatives, said the project would not only lead to the forced eviction of more than 200 people living in a village in Touwu Township, but also restrictions on development projects in nearby villages to protect the quality of water, so the plan would affect nearly the whole township.
Wu asked the WRA to re-evaluate the water usage in Miaoli County and hold public hearings in the townships that would be affected by the project within the next three months to communicate with local residents, before submitting a construction plan to the Executive Yuan.
In response, Water Resources Agency Deputy Director-General Lai Bor-hsun (賴伯勳) said the reservoir has been planned according to the future development needs of the county and the engineering techniques used would be carefully chosen to mitigate the concerns of local residents.
“The fault only runs through a part of the area of the planned project and tunnel engineering techniques have improved, so if there are some geologically fractured zones the agency would certainly employ safe construction measures,” Lai said, adding that the agency would continue to communicate with local residents on the project.