Activists demand clean water at Hsinchu river

A group of about 300 protesters gathered last week at “tofu rocks” along Hsinchu County’s Toucian River (頭前溪) to demand clean drinking water for the county’s residents.

The protesters stood on the riverbank to form the Chinese character for the word “water” (水, shui), and captured the scene using a drone.

A group of local environmental activists tested water and demonstrated the effects of water-borne parasites on water quality.

Event organisers invited local politicians from across party lines to participate, saying that water quality was everyone’s concern.

“We refuse to drink wastewater. The government must amend the Water Pollution Control Act [水污染防治法],” the organisers said, adding that water sources for drinking and irrigation must be clearly separated from factory and sewage runoffs.

The group chose yesterday for the protest in the hopes that with elections only a month away, politicians would be willing to promise to improve water quality, they said.

“Toucian River supplies water to 750,000 people, but as soon as winter arrives, water levels drop. One-fourth of the water that remains is wastewater,” they said.

The river supplies 200,000 tonnes of water daily to the Longen weir (隆恩堰) downstream from tofu rocks, but further upstream 25,000 tonnes of wastewater is pumped into the river every day, they said.

The ratio of wastewater increases in the winter when water levels fall, they added.

The organisers and other local activists had been for two-and-a-half years calling on the government to install a wastewater pipe for industrial runoff, but officials had insisted water quality was not a problem, they said.

Establishing a water treatment facility and installing a wastewater pipe would be in the interests of local residents and industry, which would be spared from protests, they said.

“If they pipe out the wastewater to an off-site water-treatment facility it would make management of the river easier, and would take the pressure off the government,” they said.