Villagers vow to ignore elections

WAR ON WASTE: Accusing their elected officials of refusing to listen to their objections about landfill sites in the area, the villagers say it is now their turn to ignore the politicians


Thu, Dec 09, 2004 - Page 2

Hundreds of villagers in Dongshan Township, Tainan County, could boycott Saturday's legislative elections, saying the legislators they elected in previous polls had failed to help them oppose the establishment of two landfill sites for industrial waste next to their village, the Taipei Times learned yesterday.

According to Wu Shih-wen (吳世文), a Dongshan Township representative, almost all of the more than 100 people who attended a village meeting in Lingnan Village last month decided not to vote in the legislative elections because of the controversial landfill projects.

The sites cover 18 hectares and 9.2 hectares respectively. The smaller site has already been completed.

"Most of the villagers earn a living from cultivating fruit. Their livelihood might be affected if water sources become polluted by waste from landfills," Wu said.

The Dongshan Township Self-Help Association was established at the end of 2002, when the villagers learned about the proposed projects.

They sent numerous petitions to the Tainan County Government, urging local authorities not to approve the projects because some residential communities are only 200m from the proposed sites.

Since then, none of the incumbent legislators has expressed support, Wu said.

"What's the use of having the legislative elections? We want to ignore it this time, because none of the candidates have ever paid attention to us," Wu said.

More than 800 villagers are entitled to vote, with a usual turnout of about 600 voters. This Saturday, less than 50 of them are expected to vote, Wu said.

"Although we do not have many voters, we still want to speak out about being ignored by the local government, political factions and developers," Wu said.

Wu stressed that the association respects the citizens' right to vote and would not prevent anyone from casting their ballot.

"As for myself, I will definitely respect the conclusion of our village meeting and not cast my ballot," Wu said.

Wu said that, although most villagers are opposed to landfills, they welcome other development projects, such as recreation centers, which could boost local tourism.

Lee Mun-she (李穆生), director-general of Tainan County's Environmental Protection Bureau, said yesterday that the applications for the two landfill projects had been processed legally.

"I can understand the villagers' obvious bias against `not in my back yard' facilities, such as landfills. But they have to be confident of our evaluation mechanism, including numerous meetings for environmental impact assessments," Lee said.

Geologically speaking that an impermeable geological stratum in the village made it suitable for landfills, Lee said.

Lee said that most Taiwanese companies are capable of using technologies to build advanced landfills.

"These landfill sites are for non-hazardous industrial waste. Villagers should turn their opposition into a positive attitude with a monitoring mechanism through which they can supervise the future operation of landfills jointly with the local government," Lee said.