An amendment to the standards used in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of a development project drew a mixed reaction at a public hearing yesterday, with environmental activists saying that the amendment has been designed to solve controversial cases.
The amendment being proposed by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) would allow developers to build roads, residential communities, hotels, recreational parks or factories that could cause pollution in water catchment areas near reservoirs.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Su Ching-chuan (蘇清泉), officials from the Greater Tainan Government and representatives from the gravel industry all supported the amendment, saying that the catchment areas near reservoirs are too big. It would hurt the economy if no development in this massive area is allowed, they said.
However, environmental activists strongly opposed the amendment.
Wu Li-huei (吳麗慧), a representative of the Taiwan Water Resources Protection Union (TWRPU), asked whether the amendment was meant to offer an easy way out for several controversial development cases, such as the Miramar Resort Hotel (美麗灣渡假村) project.
TWRPU director Jennifer Nien (粘麗玉) said the amendment would open the way for development projects to take place in the high mountains, on farm land, wet lands, national parks and wildlife protection zones without the scrutiny of an EIA committee.
Currently, the nation has 96 reservoirs with more than 100,000 hectares of catchment area. For years, local governments and legislators from Greater Tainan, Yunlin and Chiayi have tried to persuade the EPA to relax the regulations on the use of such land.
Because of the pressure, the EPA decided to hold a public hearing to listen to the opinions of different parties.
Should the amendment be passed, any construction project involving a development area of less than 500m2 or accumulative area of less 2,500m2 would be able to proceed without having to conduct an environmental impact assessment.
Environmental groups opposed to the amendment said it would damage the water quality in the nation’s reservoirs.
Aside from the changes to the regulations in reservoir catchment areas, the amendment would also relax urban renewal regulations for old communities.
While some supported that amendment, they said that the lack of an EIA review would generate more disputes of the rights to properties.