Sat, Jan 13, 2018 - Page 3 News List

COA defends draft irrigation bill in face of objections

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

The Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday defended the decision to turn nationwide irrigation associations into government agencies after more than 40 academics voiced their objection to the change in a petition.

The council’s draft amendment to the Organic Regulations for Irrigation and Water Conservancy Associations (農田水利會組織通則) is seeking to put the associations under the council’s control and make their heads appointed officials.

However, the bill sparked much criticism when it was approved by the Cabinet in November last year, with many suspecting the change is designed to serve the Democratic Progressive Party administration’s political interests.

With the legislature set to review the bill, former Council of Agriculture minister Chen Pao-chi (陳保基) and National Taiwan University (NTU) department of bioenvironmental systems engineering professor Su Ming-tao (蘇明道) on Monday initiated a petition, calling on the council to scrap the bill.

The change would lead to an increase of about 2,000 officials, which would impose a heavier financial burden on the nation, the petition said.

The associations have operated well as non-governmental organizations and if they were to become government agencies, the distribution of water in irrigation and non-irrigation areas would become uneven, which would threaten the nation’s food production security and evolve into a national security crisis, it said.

Irrigation systems for agricultural use would be affected by demand from the economic sector unless the government vows to protect the agriculture sector’s right to irrigation water with a new law, it said.

Among those who have signed the petition are former minister of the interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源), former NTU college of bioresources and agriculture dean Wu Wen-hsi (吳文希) and NTU department of entomology professor Yang Ping-shih (楊平世).

In response, the council issued a statement saying it would be able to take better care of the agriculture sector’s access to water after restructuring the associations.

The associations are already required to invite public bids for repairs to irrigation facilities when they are damaged by natural disasters, the council said, refuting the claim that maintenance would be hampered once the associations become official agencies.

Once the council has the associations under its control, it could expand the coverage of the irrigation systems to an additional 370,000 hectares, so as to enhance the nation’s food production security and tackle water pollution on farmland more efficiently, it said.

Additional reporting by Wu Hsin-tien

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