Thursday, May 18, 2006

Beaches, Tourism, and Development in Taiwan

Wild at Heart, the environmental group, has an interesting post on the intersection of national parks, local development and illegal land use in Taiwan:

“Why should I pay to walk on Shawei beach? Jibei Island is my home!” laments Mr. Jhuang, one local who is actively involved in trying to win Jibei’s prime tourist destination back from the businesses that have occupied it since 1983. The dispute came to a head in recent years after the PNSAA announced its plan to invite more private businesses to the island to develop and operate a major expansion of the resort facilities, disregarding the fact that the majority of the 18 hectares used by Sea Paradise was appropriated illegally.

In a 1998 lawsuit, Kaohsiung High Court found the lessee, Mr. Chen Si-nan, guilty of illegally occupying 16.8 hectares of government land, having only received permission in 1983 to use 1.2 hectares for construction of a few simple facilities: a washroom, a break room, a changing room and a restaurant. By subsequently enclosing and developing the remainder of this tourism gold mine, owners of Sea Paradise succeeded in turning profits of about NTD10 million a year as the percentage of Penghu-bound tourists traveling to Jibei rose to over 74 percent, while small local tourism enterprises struggled to compete.

The situation is similar in Kenting, where in the "National Park" the beachfronts are privately owned. The article is an excellent introduction to "development" in Taiwan works, with the government ignoring gross violations of the law, immense strain on local resources, covering the natural environment with cement structures, no oversight of tourist behavior, subsidies for lawbreakers, and so on. Jibei island, the subject of the article, is especially famous for its traditional stone weirs used to catch fish.

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