Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dolphins, Matsu, CO2

Wild at Heart, the great local environmental organization, has a couple of good posts on dolphins off our western shores, power plants, and the upcoming Matsu festival, the island's biggest religious procession, which local environmental groups are participating in to raise awareness. Wild at Heart writes:
The environmental groups making up the Matsu’s Fish Conservation Union (MFCU) are hoping that their participation in the festival will raise awareness of the critically endangered population of humpback dolphins that live in a narrow stretch of coastal waters along Taiwan’s west coast.

The dolphins are thought to have been named “Matsu’s fish” by coastal communities because they are more easily spotted from around the third month of the lunar calendar and have therefore been said to be surfacing to wish Matsu a happy birthday. The waters of the Taiwan Strait generally become calmer at that time, and therefore the pale pink dolphins are less likely to be confused with the white foam of breaking waves.

The pilgrimage will take place a month after the Taiwan government held its second meeting to discuss the numerous threats to the population brought to public attention by MFCU. The meeting was seen as a great disappointment by the conservationists, who say that the government has failed to take even the most basic steps such as designating the dolphins’ critical habitat and inviting the team of researchers who have been studying the dolphins since 2002 to join the closed-door discussions.

At the meeting, some felt that the Fisheries Agency was pitting fishermen against the dolphins by suggesting that measures to reduce dolphin entanglement in gillnets would ruin the livelihoods of fishermen. MCFU members argue that the dolphins, being at the top of the food chain, are an indicator of the health of the coastal waters and that their dwindling numbers and sometimes emaciated appearance reflects the poor state of the environment and the unsustainable nature of the west coast fisheries.

“We shouldn’t make the humpback dolphins out to be the enemy, we need to see them as an opportunity,” says Mr Binghen Chen of MFCU.

The procession begins at 23:00 this Saturday (21 March) at Tachia Chenlan Temple and will travel to temples in Dadu Township (大肚鄉), Changhua City (彰化市), Beitou Township (北斗鎮), Hsichou Township (溪洲鄉), Hsiluo Township (西螺鎮), Yuanchang Township (元長鄉) and Singang Township (新港鄉), where a birthday ceremony will be held at 8:00 on 25 March. On the return journey to Tachia, the pilgrims will also pass through Huwei Village (虎尾鎮), Pitou Township (埤頭鄉), Yungchin Township (永靖鄉), Yuanlin Township (員林鎮) and Cingshuei Village (清水鎮).

Due to their limited staff, MFCU are asking the public to help during the procession. Should you wish to participate, please contact MFCU for the schedule and guidance regarding certain practices which should be observed during this important religious festival (including sticking to a vegetarian diet throughout the event).
The previous post has some video of the dolphins right offshore from the largest single carbon polluter in the world, a powerplant in Taichung. Wild at Heart observes:

The online database Carbon Monitoring for Action lists the plant number one in the world for CO2 emissions, which total nearly 30 million tons a year.

Also along the coast adjacent to the population's habitat are the Mailiao (Formosa Plastics) Power Plant and the Changgong Power Plant. Mailiao is listed as the fifth largest CO2 emitting coal-fired power plant in the world and Changgong looks set to join the leaders.

National Taiwan University climatologist Hsu Kuang-Jung said at a press conference in late 2008 that "if expansion plans go ahead Changgong will be awarded fourth place".

Among the five major threats to the dolphins, which are now estimated to number less than 100, is the pollution of air and water from the countless factories, farms, cities and power plants along this intensively industrialised coast.

The dolphin is one of the island's most unique animals. You can contribute to Wild at Heart's work on its preservation by visiting their donor page and leaving a few dollars.

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

"The previous post has some video of the dolphins right offshore from the largest single carbon polluter in the world, a powerplant in Taichung."

OK, let's think about this a little. Who cares if it's the largest single carbon polluter in the world? No, really, who cares? All that seems to mean is that a whole lot of generators were grouped together at the same site instead of spread out across several locations.

Air pollution (particulates in particular) could possibly be extremely concentrated in a single area and that would be a problem, but that's not the point of the CARMA website.

In fact, a large power plant would seem to me to give greater efficiencies from scale, if anything. And that's exactly what we should be looking at--the amount of power produced for each unit of carbon released into the atmosphere.

The CARMA website should be highlighting power plants that are inefficient, not some absolute scale of carbon pollution. The Taichung and Yunlin power plants both seem very middle of the road in terms of efficiency.

And they labeled Taiwan as "Taiwan (China)" on top of that too.

Anyways, this whole Taiwan has the world's largest CO2 polluter is just silly, and makes for nice sophomoric Taipei Times headlines, but really shouldn't be repeated by anyone else.

Michael Turton said...

*sigh* The absolute scale of pollution matters to those living next door, especially when it results from needlessly burning coal instead of using wind.

Anonymous said...

Again, that's not the point of the CARMA website. It is specifically targeting carbon, the release of CO2 into the atmosphere. CO2 isn't reactive and would dissipate quickly. I'm sure there are other problems, but they should be quantified, characterized, and sourced from somewhere other than the CARMA website, which doesn't provide that information.

Dixteel said...

Taiwan's wild life, especially the marine life, has been ignored for quite a long time, more attention to them is required.

Unfortunately wind generators also have some potential problems. There were reports from UK indicating they are a threat to bats and birds. I didn't follow the detail so not sure if it's the noise they make or the arms of the wind mill that cause the problems. Therefore their placements also require careful considerations.

But the main point is clear...Taiwan needs more development and study in natural renewable energy sources. It's an island and being more indepedent on energy source could also mean long term economic and military of course it helps contribute to the environmental it creates jobs and stimulate the economy...everybody happy!

Dixteel said...

Hmm...and just want to throw it out there. There are many different efforts in finding new energy source around the world, and just a year ago many people are paying attention to them because the oil price sky rocketed.

One caught my attention: it's basically a very small nuclear power generator, approximately the size of a bathtub. It's very different from the traditional large scale nuclear power plant in terms of technology and supposely much much safer and much less radiation. It's cheaper and can be manufactured and delivered by trucks. It can be put underground etc as well.

They would be used a bit differently from tranditional power plant. It generates less power than big plants of course so there will be more of them and they will be more dispersed, ie. 1 generat per community type of thing.

I wonder what is the environmentalists view on this? I am not pro-nuclear or a nuclear tech expert, but I don't know much about the environmentalists' view neither.

Robert R. said...

The absolute scale of pollution matters for most pollutants except CO2, which is pretty much solely linked to climate change. Control of the other pollutants is critical, and, hey, my employer has products to sell in this field.

And while using wind is much more better, I find it impossible to believe that Taiwan's power needs could be met solely by non-polluting means. (Some of the smaller, non-industrial islands such as Penghu might be able to get away with it, but they're powered by diesel generators anyway).

Finally, as you do increase power generation from other means, it is best to shut down the smaller generation plants than to decrease the through-put across the board. The further you run below the design point, the less efficiency you have.