Wells Must be Capped to Save Taiwan's High-Speed Rail

Taiwanese Public Construction Minister Lee Hong-yuan said the government will cap deep groundwater wells that are threatening the structural integrity of Taiwan's high-speed rail.

The announcement comes on the heels of a recent warning issued by Lee that the high-speed rail might not last more than 10 years because overuse of groundwater has caused the land in which the railway is built on to sink.

The minister said at an inter-ministerial meeting that an industrial census will be conducted in Yunlin and Changhua counties soon to locate the deep wells used by industrial companies located near the high-speed tracks, and give users a timetable to cap them.

Shallow wells used by farmers will be spared.

"A buffer period will be granted and the government will help deep well users find other water resource options after the wells are closed," he said.

The Public Construction Commission will also review three development projects planned for the sinking areas near the tracks and make suggestions on whether these projects should be changed into other developments that will not cause the land to subside, he said.

The three projects are the Changhua High-Speed Railway Station, the Changnan Industrial Park and Changhua Flora and Fauna Plantation Area.

The public construction minister said his agency will also expand its efforts to southern Chiayi and Pingtung counties.

At the meeting, a Changhua County official called for the central government to have relevant laws amended in order to provide local governments with a legal basis to enter factories and search for illegal wells.

Fan Shih-yi, director of the Changhua County Water Resources Department, said presently local government officials do not have the power to enter a factory unless something illegal is reported.

Liu Cheng-chih, director of the Yunlin County Water Resources Department, said the Yunlin County government is fully supportive of the central government's decision to address the ground subsidence problem.

Liu said, as a matter of fact, the county government has already capped 69 deep wells in areas within three kilometers of the high-speed railway's Yunlin section.

"We hope 63 more deep wells that were dug and operated by Taiwan Water Corp. will be capped soon," Liu added.


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