Farmers and rural advocacy groups continued their campaign yesterday against water rationing plans, as the government expands its sanctions on irrigation water amid a nationwide drought.
Starting today, water sanctions are to be imposed on irrigation zones in Greater Taoyuan, Greater Tainan and Hsinchu and Chiayi counties, following water rationing in Miaoli County and Greater Taichung since late last month.
The recent series of sanctions are to be the second-largest in the nation’s history, with more than 40,000 hectares of fields affected.
Led by the Taiwan Rural Front, dozens of farmers rallied in front of the Executive Yuan in Taipei yesterday to decry what they said was an unequal distribution of water resources for industrial and agricultural use, adding that the sanctions “infringe on the integrity and rights of farmers.”
National Cheng Chi University professor Hsu Hsih-jung (徐世榮) said that according to the regulations established by the Water Resources Agency, industrial as well as non-industrial sectors should shoulder water sanctions together.
“In order to help industrial giants evade a 5 percent sanction in water usage, the government chose to decrease irrigation water for farmers by 100 percent,” Hsu said, adding that such policies only serve to “destroy agriculture.”
The activists said that institutionalized regulations should be established for the distribution of water resources in times of drought, instead of making “black box decisions that fail to account for the opinions of affected farmers.”
Liu Cheng-yu (劉政雨), 28, who runs a large farm on rented land in Hsinchu County, said the sanctions could cost his farm more than NT$10 million (US$314,000) in revenue this season.
He said that the sanctions “destroyed” the hard work of farmers and ran contrary to recent policies that have encouraged young farmers like himself to return to the countryside to work.
Taiwan Rural Front researcher Chen Ping-hsuan (陳平軒) said the group demands an official response from Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) within a week.