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HOME  > Past issues  > 2023 July 19 - 25  > Local residents worrying about possible water depletion and pollution caused by Taiwanese semiconductor maker
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2023 July 19 - 25 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Local residents worrying about possible water depletion and pollution caused by Taiwanese semiconductor maker

July 21, 2023
A Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) plant is now under construction in Kikuyo Town in Kumamoto Prefecture. Out of the total project cost of 1.1 trillion yen, the Japanese government will provide 476 billion yen in subsidies. While local business leaders are welcoming the project, local residents and family farmers are concerned about the possible depletion of groundwater and water pollution.

It is estimated that the plant will use 12,000 cubic meters of groundwater per day. That is almost the same as the daily amount pumped for all the 43,000 townspeople for tap water.

Eleven nearby municipalities with a combined population of one million use groundwater for tap, industrial, agriculture and fisheries. Kumamoto City, for example, relies on groundwater for all its tap water.

The Kumamoto prefectural and city governments each have an ordinance to control and preserve groundwater. The Japanese Communist Party Kumamoto Prefectural Committee and JCP local assemblymembers' groups in March made representations to Kumamoto Governor Kabashima Ikuo, demanding that an agreement be made between the prefectural government and the Taiwanese manufacturer in order to have the maker strictly abide by the ordinance. The prefecture in May concluded an agreement with the planned plant operator, Japan Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing (JASM), to tighten its controls on quantity of water to be used.

Water pollution is another concern for many Kumamoto residents because the plant will use cancer-causing PFAS for the production of semiconductors. As all drinking water in Kumamoto City comes from groundwater, they fear that the plant may cause yet another "Minamata disease" disaseter.

The local JCP points out that the midstream areas of the Shirakawa River where the plant under construction is located are suitable for groundwater recharge with reclaimed water and thus excessive development should be avoided. The local JCP also points out that the extent of damage from PFAS contamination, if it occurs, is unknown in advance.

The local JCP is working on the central government, which is responsible for the project by providing 476 billion yen in subsidies to attract TSMC to come to Japan, to ensure safe water for the one million local residents.
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