Taiwan: Conservation vs Development— trying to save the coastline

Taiwan Environmental Information Association

In 2006, a petrochemical corporation called KuoKuang planned to build refineries on coastal wetlands in Changhua County, Taiwan. The wetlands are well known as an extremely important habitat for Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin and many other endangered species. The plan has therefore sparked controversy, with many residents worried that a petrochemical plant would bring severe pollution and threaten their traditional way of life while environmentalists fear that it would be disastrous for the diverse wetland ecology. As Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, publicly known as Pink Dolphin listed as critically endangered on the 2008 IUCN Red List and becomes a star species, this issue draws more attention than other environmental issues in Taiwan. Environmental campaigners along with local people stand out in protests and urge the government to reject the development project. Parents bring their children to demonstrations to spread the word of saving the environment for the future generation. Young students hold sit-in in front of the Environmental Protection Administration. In short, individuals and groups with different backgrounds all gathered and spread their beliefs in creative ways.

守護白海豚行動_總統府2010, Taiwan Environmental Information Association (TEIA) and several other environmental protection organizations and wildlife conservation groups came together to block KuoKuang petrochemical plant by calling on the public to collectively purchase and set up an environmental trust on the intertidal mudflats that are the proposed site for KuoKuang. The groups ask people to “Buy One Share and Save Pink Dolphins”. In 2 years, nearly 70,000 have signed there will to purchase more than 280 hectares of wetlands. On Earth day 2011, Taiwan’s President Ma formally announced that the government does not support the KuoKuang project, marking the subsequent retraction of the project. Afterwards, we kept pushing for stronger conservation measures. Now we are seeing some progress: the Changhua coast wetland is listed as a wetland of national importance. Meanwhile, the Legislative Yuan is examining the draft wetland conservation act and the Forestry Bureau might soon determine pink dolphin major wildlife habitat.

Although the power of people succeeded in stopping the KuoKuang project, our fight is not over yet. The project may be revived in Malaysia and even in another city in Taiwan. The Malaysian people are also strongly against the project, they invited the Taiwanese activists to Malaysia and share their experiences. On the other hand, the application of buying the wetlands is still pending in the Ministry of the Interior. TEIA keeps working with other environmental groups and local fisherman communities on coastline and ocean conservation.

Recently, people here are trying to save the eastern coastline which is still primitive compare to western coastline. The eastern coastline is threatened by mass tourism and seaside resort development projects. The eastern part of Taiwan not only has high biodiversity, its rich cultural diversity is also a great treasure of Taiwan. Indigenous people and local artists arrange “Walk for Saving East Coast”. They will be visiting an urban aboriginal village near our capital city Taipei on World Heritage Day and will arrive at the Office of the President as the end of the journey on April 20th to send the message to the government and to welcome Earth Day. We truly hope that we will also success this time!

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