Scuffles broke out yesterday at an environmental impact assessment (EIA) hearing for a proposed expressway construction project in Taichung’s Shihgang District (石岡).
Local residents who had registered to speak at the public hearing said they had not finished discussing their concerns about a tunnel proposed that is part of the project when government officials ended the meeting.
Police were called in to break up scuffles between some residents and city officials.
The residents said they were also concerned about the livelihood of farmers whose land would be expropriated to make way for the project, and demanded that the government provide them with employment and social welfare benefits.
The city government’s EIA focused on a design that would use a tunnel for part of the expressway, but farmers who oppose the plan proposed that the road be built over or along the Dajia River, keeping the riverbed intact, environmental advocate Lee Hui-tzu (李惠慈) said.
The project first underwent a feasibility assessment in 2004, Taichung Construction Bureau Director Chen Ta-tien (陳大田) said.
A section of the expressway in Dongshih Township (東勢) had already been completed, but the tunnel portion had been delayed due to environmental protests since the administration of former Taichung mayor Jason Hu (胡志強), he said.
A subsequent EIA conducted under the administration of former Taichung mayor Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) was rejected by the Supreme Administrative Court.
Taichung Mayor Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) called for another assessment after taking office.
Lu’s administration said it hoped the project could proceed within the next two years.
There are four proposals for the project.
The first is centered on the north side of river, where the terrain is more difficult to work with, the bureau said.
The second is focused on the south side of the river, and has met with opposition as it would conflict with a bicycle path already there, it said.
The third and fourth proposals would center on different parts of the south side of the river, but one would exacerbate traffic congestion, while the other — the bridge which is the current subject of controversy — would affect farmland, it said.
Shihgang resident Lin Yueh-hsia (林月霞) said the plan would split her farm into two.
Others complained that they would lose their farmland entirely, as the government would have to expropriate it as part of the project, which would destroy their livelihoods.
Environmental advocate Chang Hsiang-chuan (張相泉) said that Jinsing Borough (金星) — one of the areas that would be affected if the tunnel is built — would be completely destroyed by tunneling as it is built on a downward slope.
Yesterday’s meeting was held from 1pm to 3pm, but 10 residents who registered to speak were unable to do so when city officials promptly ended it at 3pm.
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