Activists urge action on sanatorium

DIRTY PROTEST::Demonstrators performed a skit in which mud was poured onto people representing Losheng Sanatorium residents and other local people

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Apr 09, 2013 - Page 3

Losheng (Happy Life) Sanatorium (樂生療養院) preservation activists yesterday rallied outside the Department of Health (DOH), which administers the sanatorium, asking it to negotiate the relocation of an MRT maintenance depot to prevent the occurrence of landslides that could destroy the sanatorium.

Holding banners and chanting slogans, more than a dozen activists and Losheng residents demonstrated outside the department’s headquarters in Taipei to demand that it call a meeting with the Taipei City Department of Rapid Transit Systems (DORTS) to discuss the issue.

“We really feel worried because we live just a couple of meters away from the MRT depot construction site, which is causing continual landslides. Government officials should take us into consideration,” Losheng Sanatorium Self-Help Organization chairwoman Chang Yun-ming (張雲明) said during the rally. “The DORTS has said that the MRT’s Sinjhuang line could not operate without the maintenance depot, but it has now been proven that the MRT line has nothing to do with the depot, so why doesn’t the DORTS consider halting the construction and relocating the depot?”

Activists said they are asking the department to intervene and push for the relocation because it has admitted that the construction site is causing landslides that are affecting sanatorium buildings.

The demonstrators performed a skit in which mud was poured onto four people representing the residents of the sanatorium and Sinjhuang District (新莊), New Taipei City (新北市), DORTS workers and the sanatorium itself.

“If we don’t stop the construction now, this is probably what’s going to happen: the sanatorium, its residents and those in the nearby area, as well as DORTS construction workers, may be buried under a massive landslide,” said civil engineer Wang Wei-min (王偉民), who is a longtime supporter of the Losheng preservation movement.

“There are only four activists acting this drama out today, but if such a disaster happens, hundreds of thousands of people could be affected,” Wang said.

Since construction on the hill where the sanatorium stands was started in 2009, landsides have been happening repeatedly, “even during the months when the DORTS had to suspend construction due to a landslide,” Wang said.

“The DORTS keeps restarting the project using different construction methods, but apparently nothing is working,” Wang said. “So the best thing to do is to permanently suspend the project and relocate the depot.”

DOH spokesman Wang Che-chao (王哲超) said that the department has always been concerned about the safety of Losheng residents and those who live in the neighborhood.

“Relocation is a big decision that the DOH cannot make by itself, we will call a meeting to discuss the issue and will make sure that the construction is 100 percent safe,” he said.