Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ma: Half of Aboriginal Villages Must Be Moved

Thirty three of 64 aboriginal communities will have to be moved, according to President Ma....CNA via Taiwan News...
Thirty-three out of 64 aboriginal settlements around the country have been determined by experts as unsafe and will probably have to be relocated, President Ma Ying-jeou said Tuesday.

"We are working on plans to keep the aboriginal settlements at their original sites as much as possible, but if relocation is the only option, we hope the people living in these settlements will defer to the government's judgment," he said.

Aware that the residents of these settlements would rather rebuild their homes at their original sites, the president said safety should be the top consideration and urged people to look at the issue rationally.

"The government will find proper locations to rebuild settlements for these people," he said.

Citing a study by Chen Hung-yu, a geology professor, and Lin Ming-lang, a civil engineering professor, both at National Taiwan University, Ma said other 10 settlements are considered "safe with conditions," with the remaining 21 declared safe.

He said the two experts based their findings on aerial photos, topographic maps and satellite photos of the settlements.
Read that last sentence. The two experts didn't actually visit any of the sites. It's been three months now -- heck, I've visited that many aboriginal villages by bike in the last three months. However, Chen Hung-yu (陳宏宇) is an expert in using imagery to extract information. Chen Hung-yu is also the go-to guy who the media ask for quotes on landslides, quakes, and other issues of geological safety in Taiwan. He has been calling for greater awareness and deference to mountain safety issues for years.

In a post on the Ma Administration shock doctrine I pointed to a Taiwan News editorial that slammed the government for the new legislation rammed through after the typhoon. For years many aboriginal communities in the mountains have been a thorn in the side of developers, asking for more money, or protesting against projects. The new act gives the government the authority to order the aborigines to move, exempts the government from having to consider the environment, national parklands, or similar, and puts a commission composed of the government and large development corporations in charge of the project. Read the whole post, it is quite informative. Here were seeing the first fruits of the new law -- just in time for elections.

Note that during the Chen Administration the Chen government moved to give the aborigines greater autonomy and to pass new laws, sadly much ignored in practice by both of the major parties.

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Anonymous said...

I predict a huge backlash against the government on this, including by international rights organizations. Safety first, or human rights (and what about private property?). This is very similar to what the Brazilian logging interests tried to do to the Amazonian indigenes.

Also predict that several indigenous groups will strongly consider returning to the ancient tradition of headhunting for trophies.

Anonymous said...

Hello, just a long time reader of your blog. I was curious about how biking has been for your health / weight since you've taken it up. Every time you go, it seems like a pretty long trip and you go pretty consistently. Would you mind sharing a short post on that or a comment about it?

Anonymous said...

Satellite maps and so forth are usually more useful and accurate in telling how dangerous the land is in a place. Naked eye viewing is wholly subjective. The report doesn't say they didn't visit, it says they based their reports on the science. Which is the correct thing to do.

Michael Turton said...

Maps and photos can hardly begin to convey the shape of the terrain the way the naked eye can, never mind that maps especially are prone to error. Plus, site visits would insulate them from accusations like mine :)


Marc said...

How many centuries have these people lived in the mountains? And now suddenly they're not safe?? Something's rotten in the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan!