The Taipei Times reported on the Control Yuan's report on the Kuokuang Petrochemical Complex, to be located on what is currently central Taiwan's last big wetland in Changhua County. The Complex has generated much controversy for its appetite for land, water, and government subsidies. The Control Yuan observed:
The Control Yuan yesterday said that a Chaunghua County site selected for a petrochemical complex was unsuitable in view of land subsidence problems in the area.A large dam, the Hushan Dam, was proposed in conjunction with this project to supply it with the necessary water. That too may be stopped if Kuokuang is halted. (BTW, since when is Changhua spelled with an extra U?)
“Available surface water resources in Chaunghua and Yunlin counties of 380,000 tonnes a day are not sufficient ... Water-intensive industries such as the Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co (國光石化) project, which needs 400,000 tonnes of water a day, should not be introduced to the region,” the government watchdog said in a report.
The government should abandon the planned fourth-stage expansion of the Central Taiwan Science Park in Chaunghua’s Erlin Township (二林), the report said. The science park, the Erlin Precision Machinery Park Development Project and the Chaunghua Coastal Industrial Park already consume about 155,000 tonnes, 14,100 tonnes and 22,000 tonnes of water a day respectively, it said.
One problem that could arise from the Kuokuang project is that more groundwater would have to be pumped to maintain a stable water supply during shortages, which would compromise the effectiveness of measures to improve land subsidence problems, the report said.
The report said the highest rate of subsidence in Chaunghua County had been observed in Dacheng Township (大城鄉), where a wetland — the nation’s second-largest — was proposed as the location for the Kuokuang project. The subsidence rate there was 6.9cm per year in 2006 and 1.6cm per year in 2009.
Note the issues identified here -- the water supply and land subsidence, long identified as problems with the area. Other local critics have pounced upon the subsidized electricity and water as serious issues, as well as, in general, the direction of Taiwan's economy and political economy that the choice over Kuokuang indicates.
Now lets turn away from that sensible and detailed report on Kuokuang, and look at AP's report today. From Huffpost:
Taiwan may scrap a contentious plan to build a major petrochemical complex on reclaimed land on its western coast amid claims it could cause the extinction of an endangered species of dolphin, officials said.AP's article focuses on the pink dolphins! These creatures are almost totally unknown in Taiwan, except to a small group of environmentalists who were attempting (and failing) to get them adopted as a kind of public symbol of the stupidity of the Kuokuang petrochemical complex. Land subsidence, subsidies, water, and the direction of the economy never enter into AP's picture. None of that comes out in the AP article. If this project dies, it will be because practical factors and the slowly evolving Taiwanese view of the developmentalist state monster that is gradually consuming Taiwan, not because of pink dolphins. Rather than reporting the actual and complex state of affairs, it is as if AP's article is written to appeal to the presumed anti-environmentalist prejudices of its business readers.
By casting the debate in such superficial terms as "dolphin vs industrial complex", AP lost the opportunity to educate readers abroad in how these issues are viewed here in Taiwan, and on the importance of this for the upcoming presidential election....
...because President Ma, according to the Taipei Times report, has promised to make a decision on Kuokuang before the presidential election next year (pending review of the environmental assessment). In other words, Ma has promised to make a political issue of out Kuokuang right before the election. Should be plenty of fodder for us bloggers.
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