Residents of Hsinchu County’s Guansi Township (關西) yesterday protested against a project to build a new highway near the township, concerned that the construction might harm tourism and agriculture, which are the main economic activities in the township.
Displaying a picture of a panoramic view of rice paddies and mountains in Guansi on which they had placed long strips of tape representing the planned highway, at a press conference held at the legislature in Taipei, Guansi residents voiced their concern that the project may damage farmland and the beautifal view, posing a threat to the most important economic activities in the township.
“The scenic view and agricultural products are important to Guansi, but the planned highway would require the expropriation of 153 plots of farmland with a total area of 8.9 hectares, and would effect at least five rated tourist attractions in the town,” Chen Yu-chan (陳玉蟾), a Guansi resident and a member of the Meili Village Environmental Protection Union, told the press conference.
“The [Hsinchu] County Government says the project is to solve traffic problems in Guansi, but we only have traffic jams in the evenings or at weekends when large numbers of tourists visit. It is really not necessary to build a new highway for that reason,” Chen said.
Another Guansi resident, Lai Chuan-chuang (賴傳莊), said that the road leading to central Guansi would be jammed because the Guansi exit of National Freeway No. 3 is connected to the township by a narrow highway.
“It would be easier to build a new exit from the freeway that connects to the wider Provincial Highway No. 3,” Lai said. “That alternative would only cost NT$500 million [US$16 million], which is much cheaper than the NT$1.3 billion budget for the 3.4km highway project.”
Hakka musician Chen Yung-tao (陳永淘), who is among the affected landowners, said the county government had failed to notify all of the landowners about the project in advance.
“The county government said that it has organized public hearings for landowners to express their opinions, but as many as 90 percent of landowners who would be affected did not receive the notice,” Chen Yung-tao said. “I didn’t get a notice in advance. I rushed to attend when someone told me that a public hearing had already begun.”
Hsinchu County Public Works Department official Lin Ho-si (林鶴斯), who also attended the press conference, said the National Freeway Bureau has rejected the alternative plan the residents have proposed, since, according to the regulations, freeway exits must be at least 3km apart and the location of the proposed exit would be within 3km of the existing exit.
Responding to the opposition to the project, Lin said that many leading figures, including Guansi’s mayor, support the highway project and “therefore we will continue with the project, despite opposition of some of the residents.”