Then came a bit of stubbed ground, once a wood,
Next a marsh, it would seem, and now mere earth
Desperate and done with; (so a fool finds mirth,
Makes a thing and then mars it, till his mood
Changes and off he goes!) within a rood---
Bog, clay and rubble, sand and stark black dearth.
The struggle to preserve what's left of Taiwan's blasted environment took an interesting turn this week as a group of farmers in central Taiwan became the thin edge of a potentially enormous wedge. The CNA reported:
Premier Wu Den-yih said over the weekend that the government will not insist on expropriating a plot of farmland for the fourth-phase expansion of the Central Taiwan Science Park (CTSP) as long as the region's sewer and traffic systems are not affected.So the Premier announces that the government will not, after all, expropriate the land. Why did it do that?
Wu's remarks came after the Taipei High Administrative Court ruled Friday that the CTSP expansion plan should be shelved until an environmental impact assessment dispute is resolved.
The controversy arose mainly as a result of protests by residents in Siangsihliao community in Changhua County's Erlin Township over a local government plan to expropriate their farmland to make way for the science park expansion project.
The premier said during a community outreach tour in Taichung County that he has directed the CTSP Administration to conduct an overview of the issue and come up with a feasible solution.
"The government will be more than willing to respect Siangsihliao residents' intention to continue their farming careers as long as stopping the expropriation of their land plots will not impact the park area's traffic and sewer systems," Wu said.
Someone who actually understands this explained it to me. The Court's order to cease the expropriation is temporary until the appeals process for the environmental impact assessment (EIA) is completed. The case was appealed to the Executive Yuan. Now the Executive Yuan has been dragging its feet on the appeal, not wanting to give a ruling, because when it turns down the appeal, the case will then be appealed to the Adminstrative Court. Now listen close, because here's the kicker: the Executive Yuan doesn't want the case to go to the Administrative Court because it doesn't want the Court ruling on environmental/development cases. The Executive Yuan doesn't want to hand the Court that decision because it will then lose control over the process.
So how can the Executive Yuan (which the Premier heads) prevent that? Simple: not expropriate the land. Then there's no case, no appeal, and no Court out of their control intervening in the process. Sweet, eh? And the Administration can even look like it is obeying President Ma's stated policy to give priority to the environment in disputes between "environment" and "the economy."
The significance here is that this victory, however temporary, signals something new: the willingness of the Courts to intervene in a government development/construction case.
Recall that a major investor in the Guoguang project in southwestern Changhua just pulled out, citing the environment. But with over 1,000 academics signing a petition to kill the project (see post below this one), and local environmental groups buying up land in the area to prevent its construction, it seems what was really the motivator was the upcoming struggle in the Courts. There's quite a bit of money behind that project, but for the first time it seems there is a possibility it might not go through.
Perhaps a new consensus on the environment isn't emerging in Taiwan. But the Courts might well conjure one up, and give it a legal and ethical foundation, if they start intervening.
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