Suhua Highway: Second Environmental Impact Report

According to a report in The Liberty Times (自由時報) on 4/10/04, the National Expressway Engineering Bureau (國工局) is planning to resume construction of the Suhua Highway next year. It plans to submit a new environmental discrepancy analysis at the end of October, which consists of supplementary information requested by the Environmental Impact Assessment Committee, as well as referring to information in the environmental impact statement (EIS), and is believed to be almost equivalent to a full environmental impact assessment.

The Bureau is ready for action - even the contract with the company originally awarded the tender has been retained, in order to be prepared for the resumption of construction. It claims that the Suhua project is not legally required to go through this second stage of EIS, on the grounds that it passed the assessment in 2000 (conditionally), and then submitted an environmental discrepancy analysis after route plans were changed, thereby complying with legal requirements. It also cites cooperation with numerous scholars, experts and consultants as evidence of its thorough investigation of potential impacts.

In response to environmentalists’ concerns over fault lines, ecological impact, water resources, air and noise pollution, water and soil maintenance, impact on archaelogical sites and scenery, and the actual necessity of the road, the Bureau claims to have dealt with these issues in the original EIS, and suggests that concern has arisen because people do not fully understand the situation. At the same time, however, it also claims to take such concerns more seriously than ever, owing to experience of numerous natural disasters.

In terms of fault lines, the Bureau offers the consolation that during the past 10 years of continuous assessment, the topography and land features of the area in question have not changed in any obvious way. As for ecological impact, it claims that the original routes avoided environmentally sensitive or geologically unstable regions.

The report also addresses the two disputes over bidding for the Suhua tender, one of which the Bureau states is due to the bidder having not complied with the law by failing to submit a deposit, and will be dealt with by the Public Construction Committee. The second involves a company that has already signed a contract, which will now be retained for a period of six months, after which, if construction has still not commenced, it will be readdressed.