Environmentalists and local residents yesterday protested outside the Ministry of the Interior against a plan to destroy 16 hectares of woodland in Linkou District (林口), New Taipei City (新北市), to make way for an athletes’ village for the Universiade 2017, an international sporting event for university students, that will be held in Taipei.
Despite opposition from local residents, the ministry — which administers government-owned land — has authorized the Taipei City Government to proceed with the work.
“Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan [李鴻源] vowed to work on flood prevention, disaster prevention and national spatial planning when he took office, however, he has failed to keep his promise with the ongoing plan to clear 16 hectares of woodland using a NT$20 billion [US$67.6 million] budget and replace it with concrete,” Linkou resident Lee Kuan-ci (李冠畿) said.
“We would like to call on the ministry to pay attention to what Taipei City Government is doing on a plot of state-owned woodland, and ask it to suspend work immediately,” the Linkou resident said.
Lee Kuan-ci went on to ask why it was that the ministry had sent an official notice to Taipei City Government to not start the work before the budget passes the Legislative Yuan, yet the ministry does “nothing when the city government started the construction a few days ago with the budget still not passed?”
Pan Han-chiang (潘翰疆), a member of the Taiwan Alliance of Groups for Protection of Trees, said that stopping a project that may lead to future disasters is the best way to prevent disasters.
“Lee Hong-yuan said that Taiwan has very advanced techniques in disaster prevention, but in my opinion, we are better at creating disasters,” Pan said. “The government allows projects to concrete over and destroy natural environments, leading to mudslides and then executes reconstruction or disaster prevention projects through more cementization.”
Responding to the protesters, Construction and Planning Agency’s Public Housing Division director Wang An-chiang (王安強) did not answer the question on the budget, but repeatedly said that the project was approved by the Executive Yuan and the ministry has fully authorized the Taipei City Government to execute the project according to the Executive Yuan’s directions.
“It’s the Taipei City Government that has to work to meet all requirements and make decisions,” Wang said.
In a separate setting, Taipei City Government’s New Construction Office deputy director Lin Chih-feng (林志峰) said that the city government has not yet formally started work.
“The digging people may see on the site is merely to test the bearing capacity of the soil, and the fallen trees were blown down by typhoon,” Lin said.