Dispute cancels Taipei water ceremony

The China Post staff

A new fight between the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) is reaching flash point after the Taipei County Government announced yesterday it will cancel a water supply ceremony to be attended by President Chen Shui-bian, scheduled for tomorrow. Deputy Taipei County Commissioner Lin Shi-yao said the ceremony is being scrapped because the Taipei City Government refuses to guarantee a steady supply of tap water to residents in the county. He accused Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou of “politicizing” the water issue. He also accused Ma of opposing any issue that involves President Chen. Taipei County Commissioner Su Cheng-chang planned to hold a ceremony tomorrow marking the sharing of water in Feitsui (Emerald) Dam by residents in Taipei County and Taipei City. The county government invited President Chen to the ceremony but didn’t want Mayor Ma to be there. Taipei City Government officials explained that they told Taipei County a long time ago that the water in the dam will not be enough for all residents in the Greater Taipei area comprising both the city and the county. But since President Chen has been invited to the occasion, Taipei City is willing to make a compromise by providing an additional 50,000 metric tons of water every day for a period of one week out of respect for the head of state. Failing to secure water supply on a long term basis, Taipei County decided to cancel the ceremony. Deputy County Magistrate Lin blasted Taipei City for a phony respect for the president when it is actually “stripping Chen Shui-bian of his pants.” City officials explained that the dam supplies 3.4 million tons of processed water a day with one million tons consumed by county residents and 2.1 million tons for city residents. With only 300,000 tons as reserves and after a long dry spell, Taipei City now still has to ship 195,000 tons to residents in the Shihchih, Tamshui, Sanchi and Luchou area of Taipei County. This leaves only 100,000 tons of “life-saving water” on hand for emergencies like fire accidents. City officials said they have already informed the county government and warned that a glamorous ceremony will only create a false impression of increased water supply without substantive effect. City officials said the water level at the dam has now fallen to 145 meters, only four meters shy of the required 141 meters. Public utilities experts said the situation will only get worse as the annual drought season is coming soon. They noted that if President Chen can solve the problem of increasing water supply to Taipei County, he should have already done it when he served as Taipei mayor and there is no reason to delay the issue. They said that only after the completion of a new water purification plant at Chitan in Hsintien City of Taipei County in 2003, will the city be able to supply much more water to county residents.