1987 / 6月
Wang Chia /tr. by Peter Eberly
Sunday, in the rain.
In the distance loomed the vague outline of Kuantu Bridge; up close, dark water gushed out of a conduit. At around 3:40 in the afternoon of May 17th, on the right bank of the Erhchung flood control channel at Luchou pump station in Taipei County, several large umbrellas moved back and forth for a good half hour or more.
"Fifteen years? Why so long? Speed's the thing!" an urgent voice was heard from under one of the umbrellas.
The speaker was Premier Yu Kuo-hwa, president of the ROC's Executive Yuan. Ever since the beginning of May, when Premier Yu first proposed the Recovery Project of the Tamsui River Watershed Area saving the Tamsui has been a hot news item. This Sunday, the premier invited Chao Yao-tung, chairman of the Council for Economic Planning and Development; Shih Ch'un-jen, directorgeneral of the Department of Health; and other officials to the mouth of the river to examine the state of "progress" first-hand.
"You're right," Lin Feng-cheng, the Taipei County magistrate, hastened to explain. "And now that we're going to receive financial assistance from the national government, we can finish the sanitary sewerage system by 1990, ten years ahead of time!" He was about to go on to describe the project more fully, but the premier seemed to be familiar with the details.
"I know about that," the premier said. "But how are you planning to cut back pollution before the system is completed?"
Magistrate Lin replied that the county has set up a clean-up team that has been removing an average of over two tons of debris from the river a day and that it is strengthening its enforcement measures against factories and pig raisers who discharge waste into the river. The discussion turned to waste treatment, incinerators, the concept of "beneficiary charges," and back to pigs again.
"Let's not be in too much of a hurry to stop that," the premier cautioned. "Otherwise, what will the pig raisers do?"
Chairman Chao then asked that the national government take responsibility for waste water enforcement on the grounds that it places too heavy a burden on local authorities. The premier nodded his head and then turned to Magistrate Lin:
"There's a saying that 'even a clever cook can't make a meal without food,' and maybe you're feeling a little pinched despite the national subsidy. But remember, the sooner we do it, the lower the costs; if we keep putting it off, it will only cost more. . . ." His words not finished, the premier suddenly pointed to a reporter taking a picture on the bank and called out, "Watch out, don't fall in!"
The rain fell even harder. The talk had been intense, but the people under the umbrellas were hard to make out in the downpour. "We're really ashamed," Magistrate Lin apologized, brushing raindrops off his brow. "All this time and the river still isn't cleaned up. And now the premier has had to come here on a day like this. . . ." Premier Yu patted him on the shoulder and said: "No matter about the rain. The point is to work quickly. Speed's the thing!"