Environmental groups yesterday visited party caucuses and participated in a public hearing on the issue of the Cabinet’s proposal of a NT$60 billion (US$2.03 billion) six-year budget for flood control and prevention. They asked for legislators not to approve the huge budget hastily.
The budget proposal for executing the drafted special act of comprehensive watershed governance and development is set for legislative review tomorrow.
In front of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday morning, Wu Li-hui (吳麗慧) of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union’s Changhua Office said: “The proposed budget is full of hidden problems. We don’t know how the government, under such financial strain, will come up with the NT$60 billion.”
“Flood control and prevention has a lot to do with engineering designs and construction plans, but we do not see them in the draft act for comprehensive watershed governance and development,” Wu said, adding that the draft only plans to allocate the budget to local farm irrigation associations, which specialize in “distributing irrigation water, not flood control.”
“The elections for the heads of the five special municipalities are coming next year and we suspect the budget is a scheme to win votes,” she said.
Taiwan Alliance for the Protection of Water Resources spokeswoman Chen Chiao-hua (陳椒華) said the group is skeptical about the new budget proposal because a budget of NT$170 million allocated for the management of Tsengwen, Nanhwa and Wushantou Reservoirs and stabilizing the water supply in the south was later found to have been used for development project analysis and planning in the reservoir watershed areas.
She said it is also concerned that the huge budget may be shifted to development projects in watershed areas, as they also suspect the recently promulgated National Regional Plan will loosen restrictions on development in drinking water source quality protection areas.
The groups urged the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) to review the National Regional Plan through a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) process, and that the flood control budget not be used for urban planning or development projects.
Moreover, they said that articles loosening land use controls in the proposed draft act of comprehensive watershed governance and development should be removed, and that civic participation should be included in the plan.
At a public hearing in the afternoon, Water Resources Agency Deputy Director Wang Ruei-de (王瑞德) said: “The agency’s statistics showed that the size of flooding areas — flooding more than 50cm high in households — across the nation was about 1,150km2 in 2006.”
“After conducting flood control and prevention measures in the past eight years — which had funding of NT$80 billion and was later expanded to NT$116 billion, the improved areas amounted to about 538km2,” he said.
He said the agency suggested to the Cabinet that among the remaining more than 600km2 not yet improved, about 300km2 could be improved within the next six years, while some remaining areas are not suitable for flood control infrastructure.
Wang said the agency has reviewed the results of the flood control measures conducted in the past three years and already set certain goals for the coming years, so the biggest difference in the new proposal is that the land use needs to incorporate flood control plans for review in advance.
“Flood control in the past did not pay enough attention to land use,” he said, adding that the new plan hopes to cover flood control in land development projects.
The Ministry of the Interior’s Construction and Planning Agency said that although it is not required to do so by law, it would agree to submit a National Regional Plan for the EPA to conduct an SEA, if the groups are so concerned about it.