Farmers, science park battle over water in Changhua

The China Post news staff

Farmers in Changhua County’s Erlin Township (彰化縣二林鄉) were ready to launch another round of protest over the Central Taiwan Science Park’s (CTSP) fourth expansion project in the township. Previous efforts failed to stop the construction of a water relocation project that may have a serious impact the livelihoods of local farmers.

The CTSP’s project in central Taiwan has for years drawn protests from local farmers, who worried that the re-allocation of irrigation water that was originally used for agricultural purposes could make farmers’ lives more difficult. According to Hsieh Pao-yuan (謝寶元), chairman of the anti-water re-allocation group, water from the waterways around the Erlin River, which irrigates farmland in three townships in the county — Hsichou, Erlin and Pitou — was already scarce before the park took control of it. Allocating a maximum of 66,500 tons of agricultural water to the park annually constitutes cruelty toward farmers, he said. Under the strong demands of locals, government officials had previously announced the temporary suspension of the ongoing construction of the CTSP’s Erlin Park water project. Changhua farmers recently learned, however, that the water project is still under construction despite government’s pledged suspension.

According to a United Evening News report yesterday, Changhua Irrigation Association, which is responsible for building the water project, had insisted that it would continue to carry out the project despite the government’s decision. Lin Yung-chuan (林永傳), a secretary-general of the association, said his organization did not receive an official order from the CTSP to stop the construction, therefore he could not stop the project or it could result in a unilateral violation of the contract with the CTSP. Lin also said that the project, once completed, will only re-allocate about 2 percent of total irrigation water annually, downplaying the accusation that the project would deal a major blow to local farmers. The water project that was originally to be completed later this year is estimated to cost around NT$ 2.2 billion, according to Lin. In response, local farmers expressed anger over the association’s failure to follow the government’s order to suspend the project. Wu accused the association of failing to defend farmers’ rights and of colluding with the science park.

He and several township officials said they will launch another round of protests to have the project called off immediately.