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Environment disputes risk derailing Taiwan investment campaign

08-05-2010 09:47 BJT

TAIPEI, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) -- Environmental campaigners and locals are challenging Taiwan's ambitious tactics to boost investment and attract foreign investors in a series of disputes over major projects.

A Taipei court Monday ordered the suspension of an expansion of the Central Taiwan Science Park (CTSP) in Taichung County in a dispute over its environmental impact evaluation, following a court order on July 30 to halt another CTSP project in Changhua County over a land dispute.

The CTSP, one of three major industrial parks in Taiwan, started its project in Howli township in Taichung County in 2007. Leading solar battery producer Sunner Solar and flat screen giant AU Optronics Corp. (AUO), both Taiwan-based companies, have built factories in the park.

Environmental groups and local people have been protesting the risks of water and air discharges from the factories and asked the authorities to review their environmental impact assessments.

In January, Taiwan's Supreme Administrative Court annulled the approval of the environmental impact report of the CTSP Howli project and ordered the environment watchdog to restart the evaluation.

The CTSP Changhua project was suspended as local farmers refused to sell their land and argued the project was a high environment risk, especially with regard to water pollution.

"The case will have a great impact on Taiwan's economy," Dr. Wu-ueh Chang, an economic expert at Tamkang University, told Xinhua.

"Environmental issues often trouble highly-polluting traditional industries such as chemical plants and coal-fueled power plants, but now polished electronic industries, which the government actively promotes, are also facing challenges," he said.

"If the authorities cannot settle the disputes, it will seriously harm the confidence of investors," Chang said.

Sunner Solar's battery plant in Howli, with an investment of 2.5 billion New Taiwan dollars (78 million U.S. dollars), has begun operating, while two AUO screen factories, with an investment of 200 billion NT dollars (6.25 billion dollars), are scheduled to start up in November.

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