Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Algae Reefs of Taoyuan

Hang glider's photo showing waste water emerging from pipe, from Taipei Times.

It is clear that if you want the EPA to actually bestir itself, it's best that you report the industrial pollution on....Facebook....(TT)
Responding to photographs taken by civilians from the air near Taoyuan County’s Guanyin Beach (觀音海水浴場) on Saturday, showing polluted black water along the shore, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said it had examined the water on Monday and would continue to investigate the source of the pollution.

Photographs of the polluted water, about 200m north of the beach, were shot from a hang glider on Friday and posted on the Internet by the owner, and picked up by the media on Monday.
The EPA said it suspected that the waste had come from factories in a nearby industrial district. It added:
Bureau of Environmental Inspection Inspector General Chen Shyan-heng (陳咸亨) said that to protect the rare algal reefs along the shore from pollution by the numerous factories in Guanyin and Dayuan (大園) townships, the EPA and the local environmental protection agency had made a plan to strengthen inspections of water pollution along four rivers in the area.

The number of inspection officers at the bureau is limited, so the EPA encourages people to report cases of pollution or damage to the administration whenever they are discovered, Chen said.
Now read the FocusTaiwan piece:
The environmental authorities have been applauded by residents of the area for "taking the initiative" to investigate the reported case of pollution. However, a cultural association in Guanyin Towship said it had informed the the county's environmental bureau several times about the coastal pollution, but the bureau never took any responsive action.

"The government is simply numb," complained Pan Chung-cheng, president of the Dakuxi Cultural Association. He said he hopes that now the central government is paying attention to the matter, the relevant authorities will put forth a real solution to the problem.

Below are excerpts of reports by the United Daily News, a major Taiwanese newspaper, on the "black sea" incident:


After seeing the Facebook post, the EPA began scrambling the next day to investigate the matter.

Pan Cheng-chung, a local cultural association leader, said it was no secret that many factories inside the Guanyin Industrial Park have "hidden pipes" that transport waste water to the sea, where the precious algae reefs have been mostly destroyed.

Pan said when he saw the photo on May 13, he followed a map and walked inland from the coast for less than 200 meters where he found a dye factory that he believed was releasing waste water into the sea.
The Taoyuan County environmental bureau went to test the water but said that the factory had probably been alerted by the media reports and may not have released any waste water that day. Despite this, they charged the factory with violating the pollution prevention act, with a maximum fine of NT$600,000 (US$20,341).

Whoa. Huge fine, eh? I bet that will really change their behavior.

But this isn't the first time these have been in the news, so it is hard to understand why they have been neglected. Or rather, it isn't hard to understand, given the tight industry-EPA relationship in Taiwan. From 2009:
Pan Wen-yen, chairman of CPC, Taiwan, has instructed senior executives to look into a dispute arising from the company’s construction of an undersea liquefied natural gas pipeline near the Kuanyin township of Taoyuan County to connect a giant thermal power plant.

But the construction project sparked widespread concern because it threatens to destroy the rare algae reefs in the area.

In an attempt to put the negative publicity against his company to an end, Pan said CPC, Taiwan was not aware that there were algae reefs at the construction site when the planning for the LNG pipeline got under way years ago.

Algae reefs were not under the protection of the government’s conservation law, either, he said. He explained this is why the construction plan cleared the environmental impact evaluation in 2004.

Now that researchers and conservation organizations rate the algae reefs as an extremely valuable natural resource, CPC, Taiwan is willing to allocate funds to help preserve the algae reefs, he said.
Of course, construction of the pipeline, the article observed, had already commenced and a stretch of the reefs had already been destroyed. The article said that the Council of Agriculture had already announced a plan to coordinate with the Taoyuan County government and other organizations to set up a geological park there for ecotours blah blah blah. Naturally none of that came to fruition.

Turns out that this area of the north coast of Taiwan was once lined with roughly 27 kms of such reefs...
Pan said that in Taoyuan County, there were once algae reefs stretching from Chuwei to Yungan fishing ports. But since the establishment of the Dayuan and Guanyin industrial zones, factory waste from inside the zones has killed almost all of the algae reefs, leaving less than 5 km north of the Dakuxi River and south of Chuwei fishing port, he said.
Less than 5 kms of the original 27 kms of reefs remain, a miracle given what an industrialized nightmare the area is. A 2008 article on the Taoyuan area reef system notes:
Researchers from Academia Sinicia have uncovered the largest algal reef in eastern Taiwan along the coast of Shanyuan Bay in Taitung County.

"It’s quite surprising to discover such a large patch of algal reefs that are relatively undisturbed by human activities," said Allen Chao-lun Chen, an associate researcher at Academia Sinica’s Research Center for Biodiversity Aug. 14.

According to Chen, algal reefs, formed by crystalline calcium carbonates left by dead calcareous algae, usually grow at the extremely slow rate of 0.1 centimeters to 0.2 centimeters in thickness per year. Coral communities can be found in waters 1 kilometer off the coastline at a depth of 8 meters to 10 meters.

In addition to the newly-discovered algal reef, Shanyuan Bay also boasts a dense and diverse cornularia coral community in which a wealth of fish, shrimp and shell species live–a phenomenon not seen in other areas in Taiwan, Chen noted.

The largest algal reef in Taiwan was located off Taoyuan County in northwestern Taiwan, which is 4 kilometers long and 500 meters wide. Most of Taiwan’s coral reefs are found off the island’s southern coastlines, as well as its outlying islands.
Here's hoping someone in authority will wake up and realize what a priceless resource these reefs are...

REF: More info in Chinese
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! Delenda est, baby.


MJ Klein said...

my wife has had an ongoing battle with the local EPA (for almost a year) to get them to stop one of the local factories from stinking up the air in the neighborhood. just this past Monday she called them and when we went out for dinner, she caught the local inspector parked a block away, standing there doing nothing. a telephone screaming match ensued. nothing has changed one bit. that factory continues to make our house smell like cat piss.

i've suggested that she openly talk about it on FB. we'll see what happens.

Okami said...

MJ Klein, if it smells like cat piss that means they're probably cooking meth(seriously). That's probably why the EPA doesn't do anything.