Taipei City’s Environmental Impact Assessment Review Committee yesterday gave conditional approval to the Beitou Cable Car construction project, despite intense protests over its safety and environmental impact.
The review committee approved the project by seven votes to five, but the developer must relocate a station, present a geological analysis, conduct regular safety checks and present a plan that will avoid traffic congestion.
The proposed station at Shanshia for the 4.9km cable car line should be moved away from Beitou Library and Beitou Hot Spring Museum to reduce the impact of traffic on those sites. Issues including the ticketing system, possible erosion due to heavy concentrations of sulfur in the area and traffic control should also be addressed before construction begins, the committee agreed following a one-hour closed-door meeting at Taipei City Hall.
Committee chair Wu Sheng-chong (吳盛忠), commissioner of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, said the developer should meet all the requirements before construction can begin.
Environmental activists protested the decision, shouting “Democracy backlash!” and “Ineffective environmental impact assessment!” while banging on the doors, as they were blocked from entering the meeting room during the review.
Lu Shih-wei (陸詩薇), an attorney with the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Foundation, condemned the city government and the committee for allegedly ignoring the fragile geological conditions in Beitou and supporting the cable car project despite its threat to the local environment.
“The environmental impact assessment is illegitimate because it does not include the opinions of local residents. The city government obviously attempted to facilitate the procedures for the developer. We will continue our protest and prevent the project,” she said.
Dai Hsiu-feng (戴秀芬), chairperson of the Peitou Association, said part of the cable car route would be within the Yangmingshan National Park, and its construction and future operation would have negative impact on the environment
She also cited the example of the Maokong Gondola System in Muzha District (木柵), saying the geology of the area where the Beitou cable car would run is more fragile than in Maokong, warning the city about safety issues.
Some committee members also expressed concerns about the safety of the cable car system. Hung Chi-tung (洪啟東), an urban development professor at Ming Chuan University, said the city government should make sure that the geological conditions in Beitou are suitable for the construction of a cable car system, and also present disaster response measures.
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said the city respected the decision of the committee, and dismissed accusations that it had sided with the developer.
“I served as the head of the Environmental Protection Administration, and I know standard environmental impact assessment procedures. It’s impossible for us to reach any conclusions before the committee makes its decisions,” he said.
Chou Shuei-mei (周水美), former chairperson of the Taipei Hot Springs Association, defended the construction project, saying most Beitou residents support it as a boost for local tourism that would create jobs.
The Beitou cable car would have four stops starting at Xinbeitou MRT Station and ending in Yangmingshan National Park.
The construction license for the project was revoked in 2005 after then-vice minister of the interior Yen Wan-ching (顏萬進) and Tsai Bai-lu (蔡佰祿), then-director of Yangmingshan National Park, were charged with taking kickbacks from a developer who wanted a construction license for the project.