More than 200 people from dozens of civic groups held a protest at the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) yesterday afternoon against the ministry’s proposal to amend laws to relax restrictions on water catchment areas near reservoirs.
“Total governance, total loosening [of the regulations], means total destruction of the nation,” the protesters shouted, as they held several different signs with messages including “flooding but with no drinkable water,” “reservoirs becoming soil tanks,” “rivers becoming mudslides.”
The Cabinet approved the draft amendment to the Soil and Water Conservation Act (水土保持法) in mid-June, which would reduce the water supply protection areas from an original 78 percent of mountain areas to 16 percent, Taiwan Academy of Ecology secretary-general Tsai Chih-hai (蔡智豪 ) said.
The Environmental Protection Administration also proposed in July to amend the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act (環境影響評估法), loosening the regulations on water catchment areas near reservoirs and tap water quality protection areas, he said, adding that the ministry proposed to amend the Regulations on Non-
urban Land Use Control (非都市土地使用管制規範) last month and drafted an act on national regional planning this month, which excluded the ban on development or land use at water catchment areas near reservoirs.
“This series of deregulation proposals are not for the benefit of the public, but rather for the benefit of a few individuals — the development operators — and this is not what the government should do,” he said.
The reservoir sedimentation problem is already very serious in an estimated 22 reservoirs, accounting to a water capacity of about 1.2 billion cubic meters (56.6 percent) among the nation’s 96 reservoirs would be full of sediment and become useless within 100 years, he said.
“If we don’t care about the problem now, we may have no more water to drink 100 years from now, or even sooner,” Taiwan Water Conservation Alliance spokesperson Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) said, adding that they asked government agencies to withdraw their amendment proposals, hold public hearings and submit a policy EIA report to the new Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources before making any changes.
Tainan Community University researcher Wu Jen-pang (吳仁邦) said trees are being cut down upstream and cannot hold the water, causing more mudslides or land collapses in recent years.
The amendments would open up about 1.72 million hectares of reservoir catchment area for development, Taiwan Tree Protection Alliance convener Chang Mei-hui (張美惠) said, adding that this could pollute water, involve a large numbers of trees cut down and “deprive our rights to breathe fresh air”
The protesters shouted for MOI minister Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) to come out and respond to their demands. Ministry directors later promised to hold public hearings in Northern, Central, Southern and Eastern Taiwan respectively.