The Greater Taichung Government’s Social Affairs Bureau yesterday carried out an appraisal to determine whether to list an elevated irrigation ditch in the municipality’s Shengang District (神岡) as a historic site, with advocates saying a government-proposed road expansion project would not only destroy the structure, but also endanger local residents.
The appraisal was conducted at the request of National Taichung University of Education lecturer Huang Cin-sheng (黃慶聲), who said he hopes that “once the appraisal is completed, the city government will have to revoke the road expansion plan.”
The bureau said the notes taken by officials during the appraisal are to be given to the bureau’s Cultural Heritage Examination Committee, which is to announce the results after thorough deliberation.
The ditch, which sits 3m above ground, was established in 1723 by Qing dynasty official Chang Ta-ching (張達京) to irrigate farmlands in the district and therefore is historically invaluable, Taiwan Tree Protection Alliance convener Chang Mei-hui (張美惠) said.
Chang Mei-hui said the expansion project is to reclaim 1.6km of land along the ditch and expand the 6m-wide Fuzun Road to 15m in width, which would involve dismantling the ditch and building a new one on requisitioned farmland.
The project, which could cost up to NT$273.9 million (US$9.13 million), is meant to make the road into a shortcut for trucks traveling between the National Sun Yat-sen Freeway (Freeway No. 1) and Fongjhou Industrial Park.
Chang Mei-hui said the plan was “pursuing industrial development at the cost of agriculture,” adding that “the city government should not have allowed factories to be established in Shengang, which has been designated a special agricultural district.”
“Once the expansion is completed, the 2m space separating the levee and public housing would be shortened to a mere 30cm. The heavy trucks passing through the road would very likely end up crushing the levee, endangering the safety of local residents,” she said.
Accusing the Greater Taichung Government of forcibly expropriating farmland belonging to 20 households despite the owners’ protests, she said the expansion is tied to influence peddling between factory owners and the city councilors who have been lobbying for the project.
“The contractors sent excavators here without any notice and we had to block them physically,” Chang Mei-hui said.
“Moreover, the city government then chopped down a line of trees planted along the ditch, for which it gave residents NT$8 million in compensation and a promise to replant the trees elsewhere,” she added, criticizing the moves as both damaging the environment and wasting taxpayers’ money.
Chang Mei-hui said the city government was in violation of the law, citing Article 11 of the Taichung City Tree Protection regulations, which states that all regeneration or development projects in the municipality involving tree removal should only be carried out after an accompanying tree restoration plan is approved by the Council of Agriculture.
“Our next move is to file complaints over the factories and trucks operating illegally in this district with the city government and ask it to enforce the law,” she said, adding that environmental protection groups would continue to protest until the local government axes the project.
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