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Taiwan Orders Work to Stop at Growing Science Park

A Taiwan court has ordered work to stop expansion at a science park, the latest move in a saga that has pitted environmental groups against the island's normally unchallenged high-tech development, but the government has already planned an appeal.

The high court in Taipei on Tuesday ordered a temporary suspension of construction at phase three of the Central Taiwan Science Park, a manufacturing center for companies such as liquid crystal display panel maker AU Optronics.

The court ruled against the government-run science park as health studies had not eliminated concerns about cancer risks from water runoff into surrounding farmland, the Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration said in a statement on Wednesday.

Although companies already in the 1,400-hectare science park packed with optronics and chip factories will not be directly affected by the work stop order, suspension of work effectively puts on hold plans for any new factories and could compromise services for those already in place near the construction area.

"There will be an impact, because the building of our public infrastructure must come to a stop," Jou Jing-yang, deputy National Science Council minister, said at a news conference in Taipei. The lack of completion will "cause inconveniences" for existing factories, he said, but declined to give examples.

An AU spokeswoman said on Wednesday she anticipated no changes from the court decision.

The EPA has prepared to appeal the court ruling, agency chief Stephen Shen told IDG by phone. "It's not fair," Shen said. "The risk of cancer is very low. It is something that can be ignored. We hired experts that the environmental groups approved of. Public participation was tremendous and very transparent."

The council, operator of Taiwan's science parks, said revenues from 92 companies in the central campuses had grown about 27 percent between 2008 and 2010 to about NT$363 billion (US$12.3 billion). If allowed, the expansion of the park -- the newest one operated by the central government -- would open 111.6 more hectares of land for industrial development.

The seven-year-old Central Taiwan Science Park came into the spotlight last year when people living nearby staged a series of boisterous demonstrations to express fears that factory runoff from the expansion area would endanger their health.

Taiwan's cabinet, unaccustomed to organized opposition to industrial developments that have powered the island's economy for decades, disputed an earlier court ruling against the project. In August, the EPA gave a conditional approval that effectively overrode the court decision.

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