No accord on Beitou cable project

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT::Opponents of the project expressed doubts over the assurances given by the developer, saying it failed to address safety concerns

By Chen Wei-tsu and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with Staff writer

Sat, Nov 17, 2012 - Page 3

Taipei City’s Environmental Impact Assessment Review Committee yesterday failed to reach a consensus on the Beitou Cable Car construction plan amid heated exchanges between opponents and proponents of the project.

The Beitou project is the second cable car project in Taipei after the Maokong Gondola. The proposed 4.9km cable car line will have four stops running between Xinbeitou MRT Station and Yangmingshan National Park.

The budget for the build-operate-transfer (BOT) project is about NT$3.3 billion (US$112.7 million)

The meeting was packed with crowds mobilized by supporters and opponents of the project. Verbal clashes erupted before the meeting started, and more hostile confrontation ensued after the meeting began.

Opponents of the project expressed doubts over the safety assurances and other promises given in the report by the Lealea Group’s Lishanlin Leisure Development Co, the project developer.

Committee member Kuo Chiung-ying (郭瓊瑩) said the report was lacking in cultural and architectural aspects, as it failed to include the Beitou Branch Library — rated as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world — in its assessment report.

Another committee member, Chang Yi-yi (張怡怡), said that local residents’ concern that corrosion could be a safety problem because of the sulfurous gas emitted by the hot springs was not addressed in the report.

The report also failed to provide concrete data on the area’s seasonal wind directions, wind velocity and locations of the wind valley gap, she added.

Chen Chun-cheng (陳俊成), another committee member, raised questions on the large area that will be occupied by the planned shops and the scenic-viewing station at the mountain terminus end of the planned cable cars, which he said would increase water pollution and negatively impact Yangminshan National Park.

The project’s planned mid-point station is set at Lungfeng Valley (龍鳳谷), which is surrounded by forest trees, and further reviews and discussion are needed on whether shops should be set up at the station, Chen said.

Saying that the Maokong Gondola has incurred a deficit of more than NT$100 million this year alone, committee member Huang Chun-hung (黃俊鴻) questioned whether the city government would be left to take care of potential debts should the Beitou BOT project also run a deficit.

Concerns over the possible impact on the area’s ecology and overall environment were also expressed by other people at the meeting.

However, Beitou’s Zhonghe Borough (中和) warden Huang Ching-huang (黃景煌) said he sees the project as a key to reviving business in the Beitou area.

Xiushan Borough (秀山) warden Chen Shou-peng (陳壽彭) suggested putting the project to a referendum so that Beitou residents can decide on their future.

The meeting ended with no agreement.