Several lawmakers on Friday urged the Executive Yuan to form a cross-agency task force to tackle the problem of land subsidence in Yunlin County so that it does not imperil the safety of the section of high-speed railway that passes through the county.
The subsidence, caused mainly by the heavy extraction of groundwater in the agricultural region, has been particularly pronounced at certain points along the high-speed rail line in the county.
The ground where the elevated railway passes over Provincial Expressway No. 78 has sunk 55cm over the past seven years, according to data from the line’s operator, Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC), raising potential safety concerns.
The Water Resources Agency (WRA) issued a directive recently to seal off 1,115 shallow wells near the problematic areas to limit subsidence, but it was rejected by the Yunlin County Government, which said it would hurt farmers’ interests.
Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬), who refused to follow the WRA’s directive without suitable complementary measures, said the measure would do little to mitigate the problem because the subsidence was mainly caused by deep wells that had all been sealed off years ago.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Hong-chi (林鴻池) agreed, saying that well closings and high-speed railway safety involve many complex issues that require the collaboration of various government agencies.
“We hope the Executive Yuan will form an inter-ministerial task force to work out a comprehensive package of measures to resolve the contentious problems,” Lin said.
KMT Legislator Hsu Shu-po (?? said the Council for Economic Planning and Development could devise a program to have the government take over the plots of land where wells are sealed and use them for the development of a solar energy industry.
THSRC insists the high-speed railway is safe. It said the differential settlement — the rate of uneven settling — between adjacent piers of the railway viaduct remained within tolerable levels and that the line was structurally sound.
However, the company and central government agencies would prefer that the shallow wells along the railway be closed off to prevent the subsidence from getting worse and possibly affecting the rail line’s long-term safety.
WRA section chief Chen Chao-cheng (陳肇成) said that of Yunlin County’s 110,000 water wells, 98 percent had been dug illegally. Up to 1,000 of the 1,115 wells that the agency wants to seal off were dug without its approval.
The WRA will offer owners of legal wells subsidies to shut them down and provide relief funds to those who had dug them illegally, he added.
Forestry Bureau deputy director Wei Li-chih (魏立志) said the bureau would offer NT$2.4 million (US$75,600) for the reforestation of sites where wells are sealed.
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