Taipei, July 21 (CNA)
Vice Economics Minister Yang Wei-fu affirmed that a water deal signed Monday between China and Taiwan will help stabilize the water supply on Kinmen, a Taiwan-controlled island group off southern China, and said the water from China will not pose a national security risk. "In terms of national security, there are no concerns," Yang said when answering questions by reporters about the landmark agreement to channel water from China's Fujian Province to Kinmen in an attempt to quench the outlying archipelago's long-term thirst once and for all. The agreement, drawn up after nearly 20 years of negotiation, was signed between Kinmen County Waterworks Director Weng Wen-kuei and Fujian Water Supply Co. Chairman Zhu Jinliang in Kinmen, witnessed by Kinmen Magistrate Chen Fu-hai and Fujian Provincial Governor Shu Shulin.
Shu traveled from Xiamen to Kinmen by ferry earlier in the day for the signing ceremony, which he described as a "landmark" in the development of cross-Taiwan Strait relations, according to a CNA report from Kinmen.
Addressing the deal, under which an undersea pipeline will be built to connect reservoirs in Fujian and Kinmen, Yang said Kinmen has been trying to get water from China for nearly two decades and that he expects the agreement to facilitate the water supply and stabilize water quality in the outlying county.
Many issues have been discussed during the lengthy talks to settle concerns over the stability of the water supply, water quality and the safety of water transportation, Yang said.
Because Kinmen's current water sources are all from the county itself, it can always have water even if the water piped from Fujian is halted because of accidents in the future, he said, elaborating that "at least 70 percent of the demand can be met" as trying to settle worry over possible severance of the water supply.
In addition, water from Fujian's Longhu Reservoir will be tested for safety before shipment and more tests will then be conducted in Kinmen to ensure that the water meets Taiwan's tap water quality standards before being delivered to households, Yang went on.
The water deal, valued at NT$1.35 billion (US$43.27 million), is a far cry from Cold War-era hostilities that saw Kinmen endure shelling by China that lasted until the late 1970s.
Consisting of around a dozen islands with a combined area of 150 square kilometers, Kinmen is 210 km from Taiwan proper.
According to Kinmen's water statistics, the island group's daily water consumption is approximately 42,000 tonnes, with agriculture accounting for 15,000 tonnes.
With its primary source in groundwater only covering 8,000 tonnes per day and 17,000 tonnes coming from reservoirs, supplies for Kinmen's population of just under 130,000 are barely enough during droughts and dry seasons.
An extrapolation of current population trends and economic growth would show a projected 20,000-tonne daily water shortfall by the end of 2015 if the deal did not go through.
Under the water purchase deal, 15,000 tonnes of water per day will be delivered to Kinmen to begin with, increasing over time to 34,000 tonnes per day after the 10th year of the agreement.
The agreement stipulates that the Taiwan side will build the undersea pipeline from Kinmen to the Chinese coast, from where the Chinese side will construct the pipe that will stretch to Longhu Reservoir. In total, the water pipeline will be 27.67 kilometers long, with Taiwan in charge of the construction of a 16.67-km section. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2016 at the earliest.
Yang said that once the water arrives, it will help cut the water cost in Kinmen by NT$12-13 per 1,000 liters.
Currently, the cost of tap water in Kinmen has reached NT$58.6 per 1,000 liters, far higher than the NT$11 on Taiwan proper. Under the terms of Monday's deal, Fujian will sell the water at a price of NT$9.86 per 1,000 liters, which will allow a drop in water costs in Kinmen, Yang said. (By Huang Chiao-wen and Elizabeth Hsu)
Taipei, July 21 (CNA)