Members of the Atayal community of Hagay (哈凱部落) protested outside the Executive Yuan in Taipei today. They called on the government to provide permanent housing to replace the temporary housing they have been living in for ten years. They also called on the government to take responsibility for the impacts of the construction of the Baling Dam in the catchment of the Shimen Reservoir.
The Hagay community originally lived in a remote location in Fuxing Township of Taoyuan County (桃園縣復興鄉). About twenty years ago the community decided to move to a new location near the Baling Bridge (巴陵橋) on the Northern Cross Island Highway to make it easier for the children to get to school.
The construction of a check dam to control sediment at Baling and the impacts of Typhoon Herb in 1996 and Typhoon Aere in 2004 washed away the community’s land. They were forced to move into temporary housing. In the photo above Dai Li-juan (戴禮娟) is talking about the difficulties families face in the temporary housing which they have had to live in for more than ten years.
The community presented a letter of appeal to a representative of the Executive Yuan. They called on the central government to provide them with permanent housing and to take responsibility for the damage to their land and the ecology of the river caused by the construction of the Baling Dam.
The experience of the Hagay community also raises broader concerns about the impacts of engineering works and construction of dams in the Shimen Reservoir catchment area. Eight major check dams have been constructed in the catchment of the Shimen Reservoir in an attempt to reduce sediment flows into the reservoir. The Baling Dam was destroyed by Typhoon Wipha in 2007.
The photo above shows the Yufeng Dam in July 2010 at Marqwang which is further upstream from Baling. The dam is already filled with sediment so it serves no useful function except to harm the ecology of the river. I have only been making observations in the area for about a year but residents of the area tell of how the stream was much deeper and full of fish before the dam was constructed.
The government spends billions of dollars on engineering works in an attempt to maintain the quality of water in the Shimen Reservoir, but the effectiveness of the works is questionable. The case of the Hagay community shows the direct effects of these works on people living in the catchment area. If the construction of the Gaotai and Bilin dams goes ahead then the impacts on the Atayal communities in the area will be of an even greater magnitude.