Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Taiwan Voice: Development and Ecology in Tainan

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Industrial development project in southern Taiwan raises concerns over ecological impact

The issues of ecological preservation and sewage treatment surrounding the development of Hsinchi Industrial Park (新吉工業區) in Tainan brought about opposition by environmental and local cultural groups. In March, Tainan City government withdrew the initial plan and proposed amendments that, in addition to zero wastewater discharge, another hectare was to be set aside as a pheasant conservation area, saving 4.2 ha of land in total, which is about the size of five football fields. Hsinchi Farm, the designated area for Hsinchi Industrial Park, measures more than 120 ha (about the size of 145 football fields) and is currently a sugar cane field inhabited by wild birds such as oriental pratincoles and common pheasants. The government initially planned to discharge wastewater into the wetlands in Taijiang National Park, but was lambasted by environmental groups and local inhabitants. Fang Chin-cheng (方進呈), the chief of the Tainan City Economic Development Bureau, said that the amendments approved last month were being sent to the Environmental Protection Administration for an environmental impact differential analysis review. Prior to the review, he said they would schedule a seminar to explain everything to the locals.

Despite this concession on the part of the government, many people were not satisfied that the government truly has the local residents’ (both human and wildlife) interests at heart. Wu Mao-cheng (吳茂成) from the Association for the Promotion of Taijiang Culture requested that in the future citizens must participate in supervision over the execution of the zero wastewater discharge policy, since the development of Hsinchi Industrial Park could have great impact on the locals’ quality of life. Kuo Tung-Hui (郭東輝) from the Wild Bird Society of Tainan said that the government never discussed with them about the details on the restrictions in the conservation area. He added that the bigger the conservation area is the better, being that pheasants are large birds. An ecological corridor should also be established in the near future, Kuo believes, as otherwise the conservation area would be isolated.

Wu Ren-bang (吳仁邦) from the Environment Action Group of Tainan Community University pointed out that although the government accepted the proposition by the environment assessment committee to expand the conservation area, the current location they chose is actually devastating to the pheasants and other protected species, resulting in an undoubted extinction of these birds in the area. Wu specified that the reasons included:

1) The birds and other species dwell in such an environment due to the extensive cultivated lands around the area. When encountering danger, they take advantage of the sufficient space to move freely and take shelter. As soon as the farming area is developed for industrial use, the birds and other species will lose their habitat and hiding places.

2) Currently farmers continue to actively cultivate in Hsinchi farmlands. When their lands go fallow, insects populate the fallow fields, allowing birds to hunt for food during the rest period. The crop fallow rotation is known to be greatly beneficial for farmers, farmlands, crops and wildlife. Once the over 100 ha of farmland is opened up as an industrial park, these birds will lose a huge source of food.

3) It is true that the Economic Development Bureau of Tainan City confirmed the expansion of the conservation area. This seemingly good deed, however, disguises the brutal reality that would drive the pheasants and other protected species to extinction. The Bureau reserved an intact section of land entirely for the Hsinchi Industrial Park, while a fragment of land, out of "goodwill", was left for the pheasants. This “gift” is actually a lethal one as it is surrounded by residential areas, the industrial park and fish farms, in the midst of which the protected birds and other species can hardly survive. In other words, the 4.2 ha of conservation area is truly an "ecological island". (The islanding effect: disruption of continuity in a landscape will result in the loss of macro ecological life-support system.)

Wu Ren-bang questioned if any wild birds would settle in this area afterward. He believes that even those presently there would leave as soon as the construction of the industrial park began. Exasperated, he also mused that the muddled Tainan City government would end up wondering why the birds did not take to the expanse of land gifted to them.

Photo: A male common pheasant. Over a dozen pairs of pheasants have been spotted in Hsinchi Farm. Photo by 郭東輝.

Source: Liberty Times (CH)
Translation: Sharon Lin

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1 comment:

les said...

Gee, this land wouldn't happen to belong to Taiwan Sugar Corp. would it? Why has the sale of land to the private sector become the sole focus of TSC's operations?

Meanwhile, even the Philippines is using some of it's sugar surplus to make ethanol for biofuel. Ethanol mixed into gasoline, in concentrations up to 85% burns much cleaner and of course reduces dependence on imported crude. Oh no, we have to leave ourselves as vulnerable as possible to Chinese blockades, so let's not leave any land undeveloped for growing food or biomass for fuel.