Representatives of environmental groups yesterday protested against the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation’s plan to build a social welfare service center within an environmental conservation area in Neihu District (內湖) and urged the Taipei City Government to stop a review of the project.
Chanting: “Let go of Neihu conservation zone, Tzu Chi! Taipei City Government should reject the case!” in front of Taipei City Hall, the protesters accused the organization of occupying the land illegally for 14 years and damaging the environment with the project.
“Tzu Chi defends the construction project as part of its dedication to social welfare work. The truth is that the foundation is occupying the conservation area for its own gain in the name of charity,” Green Party Taiwan spokesman Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) said.
The foundation purchased a piece of land across from Dahu Park (大湖公園) 14 years ago. Since then, the foundation’s various attempts to construct buildings for different purposes on the land have been halted because of environmental concerns and opposition from local residents.
It had applied to change the land’s listing from “environmental conservation” area to “social welfare park” several years ago and sent construction plans to Taipei’s urban planning committee for review a few months ago.
Lu Shih-wei (陸詩薇), an attorney with the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Foundation, slammed the Foundation for incorrectly citing article 27 of the Urban Planning Act (都市計劃法), which requires urban planning projects to be able to promote national security or economic development, and insisted that the “social welfare park” would promote economic development in the area.
“Tzu Chi built most of its facilities around the nation by purchasing land in conservation or farming areas and applying for land rezoning. If the urban planning committee approves the project and agrees that a social welfare park is allowed to boost the local economy, then I don’t know what kind of projects won’t be approved,” she said.
Pan said residents in Neihu are under constant fear that the construction project, which is to be built on a wetland, could cause flooding and other problems because the natural water flow would be blocked.
Shao Pei (卲珮), a division head at the city’s Department of Urban Development, said the project is still under review.
A final review by the Ministry of the Interior will be required before the foundation could begin construction.
As the project continues to face opposition from local residents, Shao said the department has also asked the foundation to strengthen its communication with residents.