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China Times: Water rights issue needs to be tackled quickly

China Times: Water rights issue needs to be tackled quickly

The central government and the Yunlin County government have blamed each other for the land subsidence problem that could imperil the safety of the section of the elevated high-speed rail line that passes through the county. It's an indication that the country's water rights issue needs to be tackled immediately.
The subsidence, caused mainly by the heavy extraction of groundwater in the agricultural region, has reached 55 centimeters in seven years in one section of the high-speed rail line, nearing the upper limit of the railway system's design tolerance.
The Water Resources Agency (WRA) issued a directive recently to seal off 1,115 wells near the problem area, of which up to 1,100 were dug illegally, to curb the subsidence problem, but the request was rejected by the opposition-controlled Yunlin County government, which complained it would hurt farmers' interests.
According to the country's law governing irrigation and engineering, water is a natural resource belong to the entire country. The nation's sovereignty over the water supersedes the rights of people who own the land where the water originates. The law also stipulates that local governments are responsible for governing the use of the water locally and handling related irregularities.
We wonder why the Yunlin County government has sat idly by and done nothing about the illegal wells. We believe its nonchalant attitude was the result of neglect by relevant agencies of the central government and the Control Yuan, which has the right to censure irregularities.
The land subsidence problem actually has existed in Taiwan for over three decades and has affected about one-tenth of Taiwan's land, from Changhua, Yunlin, Chiayi, Tainan and Kaohsiung counties on the west coast to the northeastern county of Yilan.
At issue is that while there are laws governing water rights, the local governments have been unable to implement them because they did not have the personnel to execute the mandates.
Why were the local governments able to defy the law and not allocate funding for personnel in this area? How could the central government, which holds most of the resources, ignore "execution"? It is interesting that the bullet train's operator, Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation, has insisted that even with the subsidence problem, the rail line is safe.
But the issue shows that the entire country has been sinking.
Land subsidence will not cure itself if remedial measures are not taken immediately. (April 6, 2010) (By Deborah Kuo)