Yunlin’s farmers demand new flood prevention budget

BIG PROBLEM::The county is one of the most flood-prone in the nation and farmers said their lands are often submerged, leaving them without an income

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 - Page 3

Hundreds of farmers from Yunlin County and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) politicians yesterday demanded that the government provide bigger flood-prevention budgets to resolve the perennial flood problem in the county.

Led by Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬), the farmers asked the Control Yuan that the government immediately allocate a six-year, NT$60 billion (US$2 billion) flood-prevention budget, before staging a protest in front of the Executive Yuan in the scorching sun.

The budget would be crucial for flood-prone areas across the country after the eight-year, NT$80 billion flood-prevention program — which was approved by the DPP administration in 2006 — ends this year, Su said.

Typhoon Trami did not cause severe damage in Taiwan last week, but it was strong enough to submerge 900 hectares of farmland in the county’s Shueilin Township (水林), which means farmers in the area would have no income for the next four to six months, the commissioner said.

Yunlin is one of the poorest and most flood-impacted counties in the country.

After an hour-long discussion with Executive Yuan Secretary-General Chen Wei-zen (陳威仁), Su told the farmers that the government admitted that it was having problems allocating the budget due to the nation’s financial deficit.

The commissioner subsequently said she would from now on stage protests every time President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) set foot in Yunlin, since his administration decided to ignore the farmers’ request and regarded people in Yunlin as “second-class citizens.”

Su did not rule out organizing another protest in Taipei if the government failed to submit a substantial plan within a month.

She estimated that more than NT$250 billion in total would be needed to resolve the flood issue in her county.

DPP politicians who attended the protest condemned the Ma administration for betraying its pledge.

Former minister of economic affairs Shih Yen-hsiang (施顏祥) pledged a NT$60 billion project in the legislature, but the budget was not allocated in the central government’s budget plan for next year. Only slightly more than NT$1.4 billion had been allocated for flood prevention for the entire country, DPP caucus convener Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said.

As the DPP’s party primary for the Yunlin commissioner election next year was around the corner, three of the four candidates, including incumbent DPP lawmakers Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) and Lee Ying-yuan (李應元), as well as former Keelung mayor Lee Chin-yung (李進勇), attended the protest.

“The government is responsible for protecting people’s safety and property, but the Executive Yuan has been burying its head in the sand, pretending that nothing had happened. Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) should immediately take action to solve the plight,” Liu said.

Later on, Su, Ker and other petitioners sat down with Chen to discuss the matter.

In a press statement released later yesterday, Chen said he has demanded that a proposal to ensure continuity of flood-prevention efforts be sent to the Executive Yuan for a review by the Water Resources Agency within a month.

The agency was ordered to hold discussions with related agencies and local governments to identify priority flood-prone areas in each county and city, and to determine how the central government and each local government could work together to undertake follow-up flood control projects and share costs, Chen said.

Chen said that the Executive Yuan was very much concerned about inundation problems around the country, including in Yunlin County.

NT$80 billion has been used in projects undertaken by the agency to address flooding problems affecting a total of 500km2, he said, of which NT$8.309 billion, or 10.4 percent, has been spent in flood-prone areas in Yunlin County covering 95.7km2, he said.

Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan