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Subsidence no less serious than food crisis: PCC

TAIPEI -- The ground subsidence problem facing Taiwan is no less serious than the food safety crisis that is currently gripping the country, the head of the Cabinet-level Public Construction Commission (PCC) said Sunday.

PCC Minister Lee Hong-yuan said the ground subsidence problem in western Taiwan — resulting mainly from overuse of underground water for industry and agriculture — is not only putting the high-speed railway system in jeopardy but also threatening Taiwan's homeland security.

Lee worried, however, that the country would not perceive the danger until the day the high-speed railway collapsed due to the subsidence of land beneath its elevated tracks.

“By that time, it would be too late,” Lee said in an exclusive interview with the Central News Agency.

Lee said he has convened two inter-ministerial meetings on the land subsidence issue since May 16 and has asked relevant agencies to put forth possible solutions in two months.

In describing the food safety crisis, in which toxic plasticizers have been detected in a wide array of processed foods and beverages, Lee said businessmen involved have not dared defy governmental penalties because they knew their crimes were indefensible.

He believed that if similar public pressure could be formed over the ground subsidence issue, the PCC could do a better job coordinating related offices to deter underground water pumping practices.

As it stands now, Taiwan Water Company, the country's sole distributor of running water, the Council of Agriculture, which oversees local irrigation associations, and manufacturers all must take responsibility for efforts to lessen ground subsidence in the western coastal areas, he said.

The first step to curbing ground subsidence, he argued, is to close wells in the western counties of Changhua and Yunlin, and said replenishing water resources was also important.

Lee praised Changhua-based Cheng Shin Rubber Industrial Co., one of Taiwan's major manufacturers of tires for automobiles and motorcycles, for having voluntarily closed the wells that it had been using for its production.

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