The initiation of the second phase of the new Tamhai New Town (淡海新市鎮) development project in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Tamsui District (淡水) was blocked by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) general assembly yesterday, until it passes a second, stricter review.
The project to create a town using 1,756 hectares of land north of central Tamsui to relocate 300,000 people from the overcrowded Taipei metropolitan area was first proposed by the Construction and Planning Agency in 1992.
The first phase of the project has been completed. The second and third stage plans were drawn up in 1995, but never implemented after the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) requested that both be submitted to two EIAs.
After many years of delays, the agency this year submitted another development project covering more than 1,100 hectares to an EIA under a new name, but which included zones that were designated for development under the original plan’s second phase.
Before the EIA general assembly meeting was held yesterday, dozens of people supporting and opposing the project gathered at the EPA to express their views.
Carrying soil, rice stems and seaweed from the area, representatives of a Tamsui self-help association said the project would destroy not only the area’s environment and ecology, but also its high-quality agricultural land and fishing sites. Cultural sites such as 100-year-old houses, aqueducts and ponds would also be destroyed, they added.
They said the first phase of the project was finished more than 20 years ago, but though it was designed to house 130,000 people, only 13,000 have moved — one-tenth of what was planned — so if the new project proposal is realized, it will likely only create another “ghost town.”
Members of the association are also concerned that more than 15,000 households would be forced to relocate if the project is approved.
“We don’t want to become the second Dapu Borough (大埔) of Taiwan,” association member Tsai Yin (蔡瀛) said.
In an effort to gain approval from the general assembly, the Construction and Planning Agency has amended the proposal to reduce the size of the development to 655 hectares, so it only includes the first zone of the original second phase area.
Supporters of the project, including city councilors and borough chiefs, said that the project could help develop the area economically and many residents have already waited more than 20 years for the development to be completed.
Taking into consideration the possible impacts that the project would have, the meeting’s committee members concluded that the proposal needs to undergo a second-phase EIA process to be reviewed more thoroughly.