Civic environmental group Citizens of the Earth, Taiwan (CET) yesterday said it suspects the motivation behind the Gaoping Great Lakes (高屏大湖) project might actually be real estate speculation, and urged the Environmental Protection Administration’s evaluation committee to reject the proposal tomorrow.
The Water Resources Agency’s Southern Region Water Resources Office plans to build five artificial lakes in a nearly 700-hectare area for cross-border water channeling and to save water in dry seasons, on the border of Pingtung County’s Ligang Township (里港) and Greater Kaohsiung’s Meinong District (美濃).
Although local farmers have protested against the project several times in previous years because it could destroy the area’s green soybean farms, an ad hoc Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) committee meeting in January proposed two options — allow the development of one lake first and then redo the assessments, or reject all development plans — for the EIA general assembly to decide.
The group yesterday said that according to data acquired from the Ministry of the Interior’s local branch, the government is planning to develop a new 4,349-hectare township near the project’s location and will reassign the farming zones into zones for recreation, housing and industrial use.
Holding a real estate flyer found near the project’s location that reads “Near the Gaoping Great Lakes, great location for land value increment,” CET researcher Frank Yang (楊俊朗) said the group suspects that the project’s true purpose is real-estate speculation, not solving water shortage problems in the area.
The land price stated on the flyer is about three times the average price three years ago, he added.
Yang said that although the first phase of the Gaoping Great Lakes’ project would reportedly save about 100,000 tonnes of water every day, the Water Resources Agency’s statistics showed that the tap water leakage rate in Greater Kaohsiung was 26 percent — or about 470,000 tonnes of water each day — in 2011.
“It is absurd that the government is choosing to spend NT$12 billion to develop the Gaoping Great Lakes project and save 100,000 tonnes of water each day, when data from the tap water department shows that 158,000 tonnes of water can be saved by spending NT$5.5 billion in improving water leakage problems,” he said.
The group urged the EIA general assembly to reject the project tomorrow, and suggested the government publicize the names of officials involved in the new township development plans, as well as further investigate the case.