Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

Huben Fairy Pitta: courtesy of Richard Yu

Happy New Year,
and all the best for 2008 !

"Because every green measure, every conservation effort and all the little economies we could make in our daily lives, may look insignificant if we choose to look at the big picture. On the other hand, if we view that big picture as millions of little choices made by people just like us, that's how we can come to understand why it's our own choices that are so important."
A comment posted on Birdforum by James Owen.


"Because every green measure, every conservation effort and all the little economies we could make in our daily lives, may look insignificant if we choose to look at the big picture. On the other hand, if we view that big picture as millions of little choices made by people just like us, that's how we can come to understand why it's our own choices that are so important." A comment posted on Birdforum this morning by James Owen.

That was just what I really needed to hear this morning. Thanks, James ! It really puts the emission issue and conservation into a nutshell. It's all choices and how we go about our making choices is what it's all about.

2008 is all about choices. The choices that we make and how our choices will impact on our planet. Jame's comment was in a thread about a couple who are planning on a Big Year of birding. Jetting all over the world to try and notch up as many species as they can in a single year.

Big Years are trying to see as many species in a year as possible. Birders can do them locally, nationally and even internationally. Big Years aren't confined to birders only. It could be a Big year of cetaceans, mammals or even butterflies. The list is endless.

Birding Big Years can be very competitive and books such as Mark Obmascik's "The Big Year" will give one some insight into what a big Year is about. Big Years are what many birders dream about and I know I have. If we look at a Big Year, is it actually nothing more than vanity? Is it just selfless ambition? Well, I guess the choice is yours as to what to make of it.

I also came across this thread on Birdforum this morning, Doing a Bigby - Local Birding 2008, The Big Green Big Year. That sounded pretty good. A Green Big Year ! Doing it on foot locally or under your own steam on a bicycle, canoe or such like. Well, that sounded fun and I need the exercise so I signed up for that one. My Big Green Year in the Huben/Hushan IBA on pedal power.

Well back to choices. In today's Taipei Times the EPA calls on public to celebrate New Year's Eve with environment in mind. Your choice on letting off fireworks tonight and filling the neighbourhood with potassium, aluminum, magnesium, barium, lead, strontium, calcium, sodium, iron and zinc.... and scaring the hell out of the animals in the area.

Also, if you haven't voiced your concern to the Taiwan authorities over the Hushan Dam and the Taiwan pink dolphins, well, that's your choice. Letters helped to create the pressure needed to get the dolphins included in the environmental impact assessment process earlier this year. So often I hear people say we've got our own problems and we need to look at our home issues first. Fair enough, just remember the chances are that many if not all of the components in the computer you're using to read this now where made in Taiwan.

All the best for a Greener 2008 !

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Power firms sign emissions pact

On Friday ten private and public power companies signed voluntary agreements with the government to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 12 million tonnes by 2015. Hopefully this is a sign of better things to come. Environmentalists have expressed concerns and understandably so. Taiwan hasn't really shown a desire to cut back emissions to early to mid 1990s levels at all. Talk has focused around 2005 levels and at best the 2000 level. For a country with a per capita emissions rate of three times the world average these proposals by the government and industry just don't make the grade and this isolationist type of thinking poses a real risk of internationally isolating Taiwan further as an emissions bandit as the nations of the world try and clean up.

Taiwan is developing industry that is going to increase the nation's CO2 emissions. Saying that a planned coal power plant that is going to be built was going to use 'technology a' and now it will be built using 'technology b' and that will save 'X' in emissions doesn't get around the fact that the coal power plant is going to be built and it is going to increase emissions.

A real effort to reduce power consumption needs to be made. A change in the nature of future planned industries needs to be considered and the need to change to more environmentally friendly and responsible industry needs to become the focus. Hushan Dam, Dadu Weir, more power plants, steel mills, and plastic plants are not the responsible way forward. Dressing up development that is going to increase greenhouse gas emissions is just greenwashing and sooner or later it will be exposed for what it is.

Also see: MOEA says emissions reduced at 4 local power plants

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dadu Weir Project Public Explanation Meeting Report

Taiwan Academy of Ecology protesting before the meeting over the diversion of water resources for industry, including private enterprises, by the water resources agencies and endangering the livelihoods of the Taiwanese people and the survival of the humpback dolphins.

Water resources official calls Dadu River without a dam “a waste”

On Thursday 20 December a meeting was held in the Town Hall of Hemei Township, Changhua County, to allow concerned parties to hear about why the Dadu River should be dammed and over a fifth of its water diverted for industrial use in Changbin Industrial Park and Yunlin Offshore Industrial Park. Repeat meetings were held that afternoon in Changbin Industrial Park Service Centre and the following morning in Dacheng Township.

The Dadu River (= Wu River) is the sixth largest river in Taiwan’s and a major source of fresh water for Taiwan’s west coast ecosystems. It feeds the Dadu Wetlands, which were previously listed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as being one of Asia’s four major wetlands*. In addition, the Eastern Taiwan Strait (ETS) Humpback Dolphins (Sousa chinensis), which occur in the shallow coastal waters along the west coast of Taiwan from the Tongsiao River estuary in Miaoli County to Taisi in Yunlin County, have been sighted in the Dadu River estuary. Reduced freshwater flow into estuaries such as Dadu was identified at the 2nd ETS Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin workshop in September this year as being one of five major threats to the population. Any diversion or impoundment of rivers flowing out to the west coast could, therefore, increase the level of threat of extinction of the population.

At this stage of the planning process, what was presented to the public at the meetings on the 20th and 21st was what is called the “Dadu Weir Feasibility Plan.” Projects subject to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) are presented to the public and to official review bodies in various forms, including “feasibility plans” such as this, and “Environmental Statements” (ESs) such as those presented to the EPA’s EIA Review Commission. Although the system has the potential to allow all parties to be fully informed of the costs and benefits of a project, it is frequently the case that variation in the sets of documents prepared for review by (and made available to) different stakeholders means that the whole picture is never presented, thereby limiting public participation and the effectiveness of the review process.

On Thursday, in addition to presentations by representatives from Sinotech Engineering Consultants Ltd. and the Central Region Water Resources Office , a simple flier containing maps, photos and a basic explanation of the purpose and advantages of the project was provided to interested members of the public, along with a blank comment sheet. The Public Explanation Meeting and the comment sheet are formalities required by Taiwan’s EIA regulations. Comments provided by the public are supposed to be included in further reports and considered in the further planning stages.

The meeting began with a broad explanation of the project. This included technical aspects, financial costs, benefits to society, the project timescale, compensation for land acquisition, flood control, environmental impacts, funds for environmental enhancement, dust-reduction strategies and prevention of burst pipes. As is customary, vital details were missed out, but members of the audience supplemented much of what had been left out or prompted the presenters for more information.

According to Sinotech, preparatory work, construction and operation tests will span a period of six years from January 2009 to December 2014 and involve an estimated cost to the public of NTD 26.8 billion (USD 824 million). The project is designed to meet the future needs of central western Taiwan’s Changbin and Yunlin Industrial Parks. However, as pointed out by the head of the Central Region Water Resources Office Mr. Jiang Ming-lang (江明郎), it only seems as if the project is targeted towards providing for industry. In actual fact, he said, “if we can satisfy industrial water needs, industry will not need to extract ground water. If they don’t extract ground water, they won’t need to compete with the people [for water resources]. So in the end, although the recipient is industry and not the public, and although it looks like this has nothing to do with the public, industry will no longer need to extract groundwater and so the people will benefit and industry can continue to develop.”

However, as pointed out a member of the audience during the question and answer session, if the water is to be used to meet the expanding future needs of industry for greater water supplies, it will not replace an existing source of industrial water (e.g. ground water) but will rather constitute an additional source of industrial water, doing nothing to address the continuing conflict between water resource users.

Arguments that river impoundment will help mitigate water resource disputes, land subsidence and saltwater intrusion have been used to promote other projects such as the Hushan Dam in Yunlin County (currently under construction), which is also designed to supply water for further development of Yunlin Offshore Industrial Park and hence faces similar criticism. A major concern is that agriculture will lose out to industry as more water is channeled directly to the industrial parks, depleting groundwater resources and failing to produce the glowing win-win results consistently promised by proponents.

Concerns were also raised by members of the public about potential impacts of the river diversion on the Dadu Estuary Wildlife Refuge. Sinotech claimed that impacts on the Refuge have already been minimized by setting the route of the water pipes along the path of an existing road. Also, because the water level would be raised rather than water being directly extracted from the river as happens in some river diversion projects, impacts on the environment would be “minimized”.

However, a deeper concern of many in the audience was the impact of reduced freshwater flow to the estuary. If the plan goes ahead, an estimated daily volume of eight hundred thousand tons of water will be diverted for industrial use, with around six hundred thousand of that being piped south to Yunlin Offshore Industrial Park. The Sinotech speaker said that after extraction there would still be nearly three million tons per day of water flowing to the estuary, which was “a lot” and therefore the removal of eight hundred thousand tons of water per day would “not impact on downstream reaches”.

If Sinotech’s figures are taken to be correct, however, 8 hundred thousand tons makes up over a fifth of the river’s flow. Several members of the audience expressed concern that little or no explanation was being provided as to how the developers had come to the conclusion that the Refuge would not be negatively impacted by this substantial loss of fresh water input.

As for the ETS humpback dolphins, the developers steered clear of the issue in their presentations, and it was once again members of the Matsu’s Fish Conservation Union (MFCU) who raised it. Indeed, the message that resounded after the presentations was that delivered repeatedly and passionately by Mr. Jiang – that leaving the Dadu River without a dam (making it the only major river in the central region without one) would be a “waste”. Of course it is true that all that “extra” water could be flowing into a petrochemical factory or a steel plant to be heated up and contaminated, rather than directly to the sea. However, this overlooks the innumerable uses to which the plants and animals of the west coast are already putting that water - if the river is indeed incomplete without a dam, one wonders what the Dadu River estuary will be without its fish, birds and humpback dolphins.

Due to the efforts first of FormosaCetus and then other members of the Matsu’s Fish Conservation Union (MFCU), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) proceedings started to include some consideration of the dolphins in 2005. Now, while the Environmental Statement (ESs) produced for some projects might not mention the existence of the population, participation by the MFCU in EIA meetings has led to subsequent versions of some ESs including a paragraph or two on what is known about the dolphins’ distribution. However, these ESs do not generally address the likely impacts on the population, nor do they include the dolphins in any monitoring plans or mitigation strategies.

* Taiwanese official documents claim that Dadu was listed by the IUCN as one of Asia's four major wetlands. We have asked the IUCN to confirm this but no response has been received to date.

Dadu Weir Public Explanation Meetings

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bali climate talks nearly melt down

Another emissions related article appearing in the Taiwan papers today.
See: Bali climate talks nearly melt down in today's China Post.

Government to reduce CO2 emissions in Taiwan to 2000 levels

The world's dirtiest power plant. Wuchi Power Plant, Taichung, through the haze.

The Government says it will reduce CO2 emissions in Taiwan to 2000 levels but is this enough? According to the Cabinet's chief technology adviser, Lee Yuan-tseh, the government will seek to reduce the annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in Taiwan to year 2000 levels by 2025. This means that the government needs to cut current greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 40 percent.

The desire to reduce CO2 levels is good and we applaud that. However, the Taiwan government and EPA haven't exactly got a good track record when it comes to reducing emissions so naturally environmentalists remain sceptical. It's really time for the government and its agencies like the EPA to put the money where their mouth is and do something to demonstrate their sincerity in reducing emissions.

In 1998, the National Energy Conference reached a temporary agreement under which the government would aim to reduce CO2 emissions in the country to year 2000 levels by 2020. This clearly hasn't been happening nor has there ever been a serious effort to do so. Taiwan has the single largest CO2 emitting power plant on the planet. Taiwan's per capita CO2 emissions are three times the world average. We've watched controversial projects of dubious legality such as the Hushan Dam Project steamrolled through the EIA process. These projects are linked to the development of heavy-polluting industry on Taiwan's west coast. These are developments that will raise the country's alarmingly high emissions level even higher. Hushan Dam, a project that is trashing an internationally designated Important Bird Area (IBA) and destroying globally the most important breeding area for the Fairy Pitta is going ahead to meet the water demands of more planned heavy industry. The resulting reduction in the flow of freshwater into the Jhoushui River Estuary will have dire consequences for Taiwan's extremely vulnerable and unique population of humpback dolphin and will degrade critically important waterbird habitat in Dacheng Wetlands, another internationally designated IBA.

If the government is serious about reducing Taiwan's greenhouse gas levels then in the words of Cheng I-chin of the Taiwan Environmental Action Network (TEAN) "The government must reconsider building these monstrosities that would make us international outcasts in the fight against carbon emission reduction."

See Taiwan to push for reduction of CO2 emissions in the Taiwan News.

On a happier note. A more possitive story from today's Taipei Times:
EPA launches campaign to promote 'green hotels'

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Season Greetings

A Merry Christmas to all !

Bali conference allowed the world to go to work on the climate ?

See today's Taipei Times, Bali conference allowed the world to go to work on the climate.

Also in today's news the [Taiwan] Atomic Energy Council (AEC) says the Energy crisis could save first nuclear plant.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Emission coverage continues

As the Taiwan media continues its coverage of the CO2 emissions issue we'll continue to link to some of the articles because of their relevalce to both the Taiwan humpback dolphins and the Hushan Dam issues.

See 'Low carb' life can keep Taiwan cool and EPA selects 32 finalists in poster contest to promote carbon emission reductions in today's Taipei Times.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

EPA to unveil plan for global body next month

Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Minister Winston Dang says the EPA will present a comprehensive plan next month to push for the establishment of a World Environment Organization (WEO). See today's Taipei Times for details.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Australia's first Fairy Pitta and a winter sighting on Borneo

Wintering records for the Fairy Pitta remain few and far between. It is generally suggested that the species most likely winters on Borneo but in reality researchers know little and most will admit to this being more of an educated guess.

Interestingly, a Fairy Pitta recently showed up in northern Australia. The bird was thought to be a Blue-winged Pitta at one point but has since been confirmed to indeed be Australia's first Fairy Pitta. Blue-winged Pitta are recorded as a vagrant to NW Australia. Click here, here and here for some photos and here and here for some info.

Also, a Fairy Pitta was photographed by a person named Yeo on Borneo at the Matang Wildlife Centre, Kubah National Park of Sarawak, Eastern Malaysia on 11 November 2007. We have seen two photos and the bird is a Fairy Pitta but we are still awaiting further details of the sighting.

Fairy Pitta wintering area mystery continues

Search for the Fairy Pitta wintering area

'Green' action cannot wait for US

See Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU) Chair, Gloria Hsu's letter, "'Green' action cannot wait for US" in today's Taipei Times. Gloria urges Taiwan not to drag it's feet on cutting emissions and says that waiting for the US isn't an excuse for Taiwan not to act.

Also see:
Left out of the UN, decisions are made for us

Lee urges candidates to address issue of emissions

Government urged to take action on emissions

Taiwan must abide by international rules on greenhouse gas emissions: EPA

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Emissions talk continues

Hushan, globally the most important breeding area for the rare and vulnerable Fairy Pitta being destroyed to build a dam to supply water for more planned heavy pollution-generating industry in a country which has a per capita CO2 emissions rate three times the world average. The dam will also degrade the remaining habitat of the endangered Taiwan humpback dolphins by reducing the flow of freshwater into the Jhoushui Estuary.

Talk over Taiwan's CO2 emissions continues. From the standpoint that Taiwan needs to be a UN member to really reduce its emissions to Nobel laureate Lee Yuan-tseh urging presidential candidates to aim at stabilizing CO2 emissions by 2025 at the level it was at in 2000. Environmental Quality Protection Foundation Chairman Liu Ming-lung said he supports Lee's idea of stabilizing Taiwan's CO2 emissions at the 2000 level by 2025 but added that when setting goals to reduce carbon emissions, stricter targets are not necessarily good because it might result in negative economic growth.

According to Taiwan's Department of Health Taiwan was ranked 22nd in the world in terms of total CO2 emissions in 2005. That is unacceptable to the health of the people of Taiwan and all life that we share Taiwan with. On that reason alone something drastic should be done. Stabilizing Taiwan's CO2 emissions at 2000 levels isn't enough and using the UN card as an excuse to act doesn't help the people of Taiwan. The whole world needs to change and so does Taiwan. If we don't, then nature will change us. Do we really want to build more dams and factories to further pollute our environment, destroy our health and drive species like the Taiwan humpback dolphins and numerous others over the brink into extinction?

"Many of us wonder whether human beings, one of ten million or more species on earth, have the right to destroy such a large proportion of what are as far as we know our only living companions in the universe." Ed Wilson & Paul Erlich

Left out of the UN, decisions are made for us

Lee urges candidates to address issue of emissions

Also see:
Government urged to take action on emissions

Taiwan must abide by international rules on greenhouse gas emissions: EPA

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Government urged to take action on emissions

Another article urging Taiwan to take action on against its high level of CO2 emissions. See Government urged to take action on emissions in the Taiwan News. Taiwan's per capita CO2 emissions are the highest in Asia and at 12 metric tons of CO2 annually per person it's three times the global average of 4 tons per person. Recently Nature magazine named Taiwan's Wuchi power plant in Taichung as the world's highest CO2 emitting coal-fired power plant. Taiwan seems to be forging ahead with developing more heavy industry that will substantially raise the country's level of CO2 emissions. This development will also directly impact very negatively on Taiwan's unique and extremely vulnerable humpback dolphins and many other Red List species which include the Fairy Pitta of Hushan.

Also see Taiwan must abide by international rules on greenhouse gas emissions: EPA

Taiwan's Wuchi Power Plant - the world's dirtiest

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dadu Weir Public Explanation Meetings

The Dadu River Estuary

The Central Region Water Resources Office of the Water Resources Agency will be holding three Public Explanation Meetings on the 20th and 21st December (see below) in the Changhua area for the feasibility/planning of the proposed Dadu Weir which would reduce the flow of freshwater into the Dadu (Tatu) estuary. The "Matsu's Fish Conservation Union" will be holding a protest to coincide with the Public Explanation Meetings to raise awareness of the negative impact that the Dadu Weir would have on the unique and extremely vulnerable Taiwan humpback dolphins by reducing the flow of freshwater into the Dadu estuary and how this project will supply water to further develop Taiwan's heavy industry in a country where the per capita CO2 emissions are the highest in Asia and no meaningful plan seems to exist to try and reduce these emission levels.

Developers notice:
"Dadu Weir Project Feasibility Plan” Local Public Explanation Meeting

1. Premise for the Meeting

The Wu River catchment has plentiful water resources and is the main source of water for the Central Region [of Taiwan]. However, because the downstream reaches are polluted by municipal waste the water is of poor quality and the rate of water resource use is low.

The Water Resources Agency of the Ministry of Economic Affairs once planned to build Guosing and Jianmin Reservoirs in the upstream reaches of the Wu River, neither of which went ahead because of many factors. After considering the critical nature of the water resources situation in the Changhua/Yunlin area and the needs of future industrial development, the Central Region Water Resources Office of the Water Resources Agency took precautions and devised the “Dadu Weir Feasibility Plan” [大度攔河堰可行性規劃] in order to use the Wu River resources effectively, suggesting that the priority be to develop Dadu Weir to provide 800 000 tons of water a day industrial use, 300 000 tons per day of which would be supplied to Changbin Industrial Park, with the remaining 500 000 tons per day and Jiji Weir on the Jhuoshuei River to be used together to supply industrial water to Yunlin Offshore Industrial Park.

The estimated cost for the “Dadu Feasibility Plan” project is about 26.8 billion New Taiwanese Dollars. It is planned that in 2009 and 2010 the project will be designed and land acquired, and estimated that in 2011 work will start, and that in 2014 it will be finished, providing sufficient water for industrial use. In addition to promoting industrial development, this can also reduce groundwater extraction, to alleviate the problem of continued ground subsidence.

2. Basis and Purpose for the Meeting

According to Article 10 Item 1 of the EPA’s Standards for Environmental Impact Assessment of Development Activities [開發行為環境影響評估作業準則], before a developer makes and delivers its Environmental Statement to the EPA for review, it must hold at meeting to allow the public to participate and express their opinions.


20.12.2007 10am: Hemei Township, main auditorium on the 4th floor of the town hall.
20.12.2007 2pm: Changbin Industrial Park Service Centre Briefing Room.
21.12.2007 10am Dacheng Township Town Hall 3rd floor Big Meeting Room.

Taiwan must abide by international rules on greenhouse gas emissions: EPA

Wuchi Power Plant, Taichung. The world's greatest CO2 emittions coal power plant

In the wake of the Bali Conference Taiwan's Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Deputy Minister Chang Feng-teng has said that the nation's most urgent environmental issue is to follow international guidelines on greenhouse gas emission controls. Is this just more empty words from the government or are they really going to do something this time?

Taiwan is arguably the third highest per capita CO2 emitter on the planet. With projects like the Hushan Dam going ahead and others like the Dadu weir (consultation to take place 19-20 December)set to follow in order to supply the water needs for more planned heavy pollution-generating industry one wonders how on earth Taiwan is going to be able to follow international guidelines on greenhouse gas emission controls? The recent track record of Taiwan's EPA doesn't inspire confidence that the EPA has any real commitment to reducing CO2 emissions.

In the words of Cheng I-chin of the Taiwan Environmental Action Netwok (TEAN)"The government must reconsider building these monstrosities that would make us international outcasts in the fight against carbon emission reduction."

See: Taiwan must abide by international rules on greenhouse gas emissions: EPA in today's Taipei Times.

Taiwan's Wuchi Power Plant - the world's dirtiest

Taiwan's coal power plant at Wuchi, Taichung being named by Nature magazine (Vol 450/15 November 2007, p 327:- Graphic detail Countries with highest CO2-emitting power sectors, Tonnes per year) as producing the largest amount of CO2 emissions of any power plant on the planet prompted a member of the environmental impact assessment commission that is reviewing a private power plant project in eastern Taiwan to write an article that appeared in the local press. Our heart goes out to those few commissioners of conscience who try and raise the real issues while participating in the window dressing exercises of Taiwan's Environmental Protection Agency/Developer/Elected Representative clique. We have created an incredible nearly unstoppable pollution generation monster through a simple, three-step process:

1) Privatize energy generation, but keep distribution with the state-owned Taiwan Power Company

2) Taiwan Power is legally required to buy all energy generated, regardless of need

3) Keep the people in the dark as to where the money and energy are going and as to the true costs

Sixty years of isolation under the Chinese KMT rule and for the last eight years under the Taiwanese DPP rule, are taking their toll.

See: CO2 for Taiwan pollution forever

Also see:
Taiwan Power Plant Tops in Carbon Output, Group Says

Monday, December 17, 2007

The environment must come first

As the world's eyes have been on Bali, take a moment to consider that Taiwan isn't there. Consider that Taiwan ranks amongst the highest per capita CO2 emitters on the planet but the world's not talking to them. See the Taipei Times's editorial "The environment must come first."

More animal rights or just more talk?

On Friday the legislature overhauled the Animal Protection Act. This is indeed a good step in the right direction but given that Taiwan's previous legislation on animal protection wasn't that lax one asks if this was just another case of window dressing. The real test will be to see if it gets enforced. While they're talking about animal protection how about something more for Taiwan's pittas and pink dolphins?

See: Lawmakers pass overhaul of law on animal rights

The 17th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals

We've just returned from the 17th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals held in Cape Town, South Africa. The conference offered on opportunity to help raise international awareness of the plight of the Taiwan humpback dolphins and other related Taiwan issues like the Hushan Dam project. We'll be posting more on the conference shortly.

See, Cape Argus: Loss of 'goddess' a grave warning sign

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Taiwan's Humpback Dolphins make it into India's Central Chronicle

An Indian daily newspaper, Central Chronicle, recently ran an article titled Rare dolphin faces extinction on the plight of the Taiwan humpback dolphins. Great to see the issue making the papers in other Asian countries.

The Taiwan humpback dolphins will face further habitat loss with the Hushan Dam reducing the flow of fresh water into the Jhoushuei estuary.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Formosa Plastic Group's Yunlin Steel Mill Needs More Review

The FPG plant at Mailiao, Yunlin

See former Environmental Impact Assessment Committee member Lee Ken-cheng's article titled Formosa Plastic Group's Yunlin Steel Mill Needs More Review for some further insight into the Mailiao and Hushan Dam development issues.

Taking the plight of the Taiwan humpback dolphins abroad - The 17th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals

View of Cape Town, host city to the 17th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals

The unique population of Taiwan humpback dolphins face many threats, amongst these is more industrial development on Taiwan's west coast that will destroy habitat critical to the survival of this species. The Hushan Dam will supply water to these developments. In addition to the development that will result in the destruction of prime dolphin habitat the Hushan Dam will also reduce the flow of fresh water into the Jhoushui estuary which will further degrade this important wetland environment which is critically important to the survival of these unique dolphins and other marine life.

The Society for Marine Mammalogy will be holding the 17th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals from 29 November to 3 December, 2007, in Cape Town, South Africa. Matsu's Fish Conservation Union members will be present. Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, will have a booth at the conference. Also, FormosaCetus Research and Conservation Group will be doing two presentations on the Taiwan humpback dolphins. In addition to this the steering committee that was established at the Second International Workshop on the Conservation and Research Needs of the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins, Sousa chinensis, in the waters of western Taiwan will be meeting to work on the establishment of an international working group of scientific experts whose mandate will be to provide independent advice on ETS humpback dolphin research and conservation.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Kaohsiung's air gets worse

A short piece from yesterday's Taipei Time's Taiwan Quick Take section. See Kaohsiung's air gets worse. The recent poor air quality in the Kaohsiung area largely blamed on existing west coast industry....and the government and developers are planning more.

Monday, November 12, 2007

EPA and supporters celebrate 9th year of green lifestyle

Farmer burning waste

The headline EPA and supporters celebrate 9th year of green lifestyle in today's Taipei Times caught my eye. I had a look and read how the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and thousands of environmental volunteers in a number of cities and counties yesterday celebrated the EPA's ninth year of its Low-carbon Lifestyle Program.

While I'm all for programs and efforts to reduce carbon levels and applaud and encourage any such effort I couldn't help thinking that this was just another green-washing type drive to lay a smoke screen over the EPA's reluctance to really make a concerted effort to do something concrete to address the issue of Taiwan's carbon emissions problem.

I dread October and November each year because I know that that is the time that countless farmers burn their fields and every piece of garbage and unwanted vegetation they can rake together. For about eight weeks my nose constantly runs, I cough and get headaches. The washing smells like a bonfire and the house gets full of ash. I can't see the buildings just a few hundred meters down the road. I wonder if I'm the only one in Taiwan that feels this way? Why should we put up with this? Burning trash is illegal! This happens openly and what do the authorities do? Nothing, it would seem !

I mentioned this to a friend living in another county. He said that perhaps it was only a problem in my area. I replied saying I didn't think so. In the weeks that followed I travelled the length of the country from Taipei to Kenting. And from the train and bus window I could see fire after fire after fire for weeks on end stretching from north to south along the western coastal plain. I wonder how much carbon is emitted from the this uncontrolled burning? We haven't even got to the factories, and the cars.

The EPA seems set on trying to help pass projects like the Hushan Reservoir to get those west coast development projects off the ground. Sure, money will be made in the short-term but what about the environment and all of creation that has to live, eat, drink and breath the pollution? How much will we have to pay to clean up the mess we are making for a quick buck?

Come on EPA. Let's get real and really do something about Taiwan's carbon emissions and do your bit in creating a real Low-carbon Lifestyle program for all of Taiwan.

Taipower through the haze, Wuchi, Taichung

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Green Party Taiwan to enter the legislative elections

The Green Party Taiwan (GPT) announced yesterday that it has named five candidates for January's legislative elections.

See today's Taipei Times for the story.

The 2007 Taipei Birdfair

Wild at Heart stand

The annual Taipei Birdfair took place over the weekend in Guandu, Taipei. The event was hosted by the Wild Bird Society of Taipei. Taiwan's various bird societies were well represented. Other organisations and groups were also present. These included Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute, and Shei-Pa National Park amongst others.

2007 Taipei Birdfair

Several foreign birding groups and NGOs were also present. These included the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines; Chengdu Bird Watching Society, China; Hong Kong Bird Watching Society; Wild Bird Society of Japan; Tourism & Wildlife Society of India; BOCA, Australia; Bird Conservation Society of Thailand; and The Ocean Conservancy, California, USA.

Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association and the Wild Bird Society of Yunlin, both members of the Taiwan National Coalition against the Hushan Dam and Matsu's Fish Conservation Union, had stands presenting the Hushan Dam - Fairy Pitta issue as well as the plight of the Taiwan humpback dolphins.

Wild Bird Society of Yunlin stand.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Taipei Birdfair

Hushan Dam construction site

If you're in the Taipei area this weekend (3-4 November, 08:00-17:00) Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association and the Wild Bird Society of Yunlin will be at the 2007 Taipei Birdfair in the Guandu Nature Park* telling visitors about the Hushan Dam issue, the Taiwan humpback dolphins, and other environmental issues.

*There will be shuttle buses running from the Guandu MRT Station. There will also be stands at the Zhishan Cultural and Ecological Garden but the main events will be at Guandu.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Formosa spending again

The Formosa Plastics Group proposed investing NT$706.8 billion (US$21.7 billion) in Taiwan over the next five years, yesterday. See today's Taipei Times for the story. Given the state of Taiwan's natural environment is this investment at all? What are the long term costs to Taiwan's environment and all who live here? It would seem that for now the glitter of gold blinds us to the growing typhoon on the horizon.

Monday, October 8, 2007

More on the Environmental Impact Review Committee Meeting

They say they're not there? A humpback dolphin in the inshore waters around the Formosa Plastics Plant at Mailiao, Yunlin County: Photo courtesy of FormosaCetus Research & Conservation Group.

The Taiwan EPA's Environmental Impact Assessment Commission held the 156th meeting on 1 October 2007. Two cases reviewed are of particular interest to those concerned with the Hushan Dam issue and the plight of the humpback dolphins living along the coast of western Taiwan. Namely, the coal fired power plant in Taichung next to the Wu (Dadu) River estuary, and the Formosa Steel Plant next to the Formosa Plastics Plant which abuts the Jhuoshui River estuary.

Although several commissioners questioned the power plant's viability in light of central Taiwan's already exceeding its emissions limit, the chair (Minister of the EPA, Winston Dang) quickly gave the project approval. The plant must still go through a competitive privatization procedure at the end of the year before it can be finalized. The Formosa Steel Plant had been recommended by the previous commission for a second phase evaluation, however, the EPA has announced that the commission chose to go against that recommendation and instead instructed the EIA department of the EPA to put together another subcommittee to review the case as part of the first phase process. Second phase EIA's are considered more stringent and require considerably more public participation. The developers claimed during the meeting that there are no humpback dolphins off the shore of Yunlin despite environmental groups having passed out posters to the commissioners showing dolphins against the background of Formosa's Yunlin petrochemical plant.

Also see:
Environmental Impact Review Committee Meeting
Formosa Steel Plant update

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Environmental Impact Review Committee Meeting

On Monday October 1 the Environmental Protection Administration's (EPA) Environmental Impact Review Committee voted to form a special taskforce to review construction of a Formosa Plastics steel plant in Yunlin. This was overruled by the EPA Minister. We'll be giving more details as soon as they become available.

See Tuesday's Taipei Times's Review committee sparks ire.

Also see:
More on the Environmental Impact Review Committee Meeting
Formosa Steel Plant update
Formosa spending again

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

More water for Formosa means less for Taiwan

The You-cing Valley as it was before the Hushan Project

According to a report buried on page 20 of the 29 September edition of the Apple Daily, a subcommittee was formed to review Formosa Plastic's application to increase its water allowance from 251,000 tonnes/day to 351,000 tonnes/day. The report continued that the head of the Overall Planning Department, Huang Guanghui, said that the decision of the subcommittee would have to be approved by the plenary commission, which at the soonest will be in mid October. The report appears to have been accurate except that the original approved amount was 257,000 tonnes/day.

Interestingly, this case involves a number of issues that were headline news earlier this year, including the public's right to information about violations by developers of environmental laws or commitments made pursuant to the approval of their environmental impact assessments, whether there is a legal basis for the application by Formosa for a change in the water usage - the original commitment was backed by a pledge from chairman of Formosa Plastics who said they would shut down operations to the extent necessary to meet their commitment to keep water use down, and how on the day after Formosa Plastics chairman's visit to President Chen, the Executive Yuan canceled an NT$7 million dollar fine against the company for violations of its EIA. Just how long are corporations going to be allowed to keep reporting incredible profits each time financial reports are due at the expense of the well being of the environment and ultimately all who live in Taiwan and generations to come?

Well, it isn't surprising, when it is a choice between Wang Yongcing and Formosa Plastics need for cheap water and the marine life along the Yunlin coast: Taiwan's government continues to send the message that it wants our country to stay ahead of the competition for the worst environmental record among developed countries in the world, and while we're at it, let's see how quickly we can't get rid of pesky dolphins and Fairy Pittas before there is too much notice taken by the international community.

You-cing Valley being laid to waste as part of the Hushan Reservoir project to satisfy the "needs" of industry

Monday, October 1, 2007

Hushan Archaeological Sites Update

We have just learned that Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association has sent another letter to the Yunlin County Government (YCG) and Cultural Affairs Bureau pointing out that the Bureau has taken no steps under the Cultural Resources Act to designate the area in Hushan in which significant archaeological ruins were discovered last year. Wild at Heart sent a letter requesting action be taken last April. However, despite the letter, there has been no indication that the YCG has complied with the provisions of the Cultural Affairs Act on the issue. A number of conservation groups are looking into taking legal action against the YCG and its central government counterpart, the Council of Cultural Affairs.

Also see Newly Discovered Archaeological Sites in the area of the Hushan Dam.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hushan Bird Gallery Updated

Collared Scops Owl: courtesy of Richard Yu

We've added a number of new photos to the Gallery.

Taiwan birding stories continued: A Brief History of Grey-Faced Buzzard Conservation in Taiwan

Grey Faced Buzzard: courtesy of Richard Yu

The Grey-faced Buzzard migration through Taiwan is amongst the world's largest raptor migrations. In late March and early April Grey-faced Buzzard are a reasonably common site in the Huben/Hushan area as these birds make their way to the Baguashan in Changhua County just north-east of Huben.

A Brief History of Grey-Faced Buzzard Conservation in Taiwan

The sight of a raptor soaring has inspired mankind through the ages. Nations, armies, corporations, and sports teams have all used the image of a raptor to symbolize their power and strength. Somehow the very sight of a raptor on the wing stirs something deep within us. It is the image of power and the very essence of a predator. It moves effortlessly and with absolute grace. It soars on high, above all, swooping down to kill in an awesome climax of noble grace, cunning speed and ruthless power. To many the eagle and its allies are indeed the ultimate predator and the personification of man’s desires incarnate.

These very virtues of the raptor have put it in direct competition with man and that conflict has played out over the ages in a number of ways and has almost always, if not always, spelt destruction for the free spirit of these noble creatures.

Man has captured raptors to make use of their skills. They have been destroyed when they have competed with us for food; poisoned and hunted when they have taken our livestock. Their feathers have been collected to decorate our costumes and in Taiwan they have fallen victim to those that wish to capture and possess their spirit.

At the southern tip of Taiwan lies the Heng-chun Peninsula. The Heng-chun Peninsula is the most important site for raptor migration in East Asia and is included in the 20 largest raptor migration sites globally. The Heng-chun Peninsula is the Veracruz of East Asia. Twenty-six species of diurnal raptors have been recorded to date with figures as high as 50 000+ birds passing through the peninsula in a day during the peak autumn migration period.

From early to mid October thousands of Grey-faced Buzzards Butastur indicus pass through Heng-chun, Kenting National Park in one of the earth’s most spectacular displays of avian migration. The following is a brief history of the plight and conservation of the Grey-faced Buzzard in Taiwan.

The distribution of the Grey-faced Buzzard is the Eastern Palearctic region with the species wintering in the Indomalayan region. Through its range the species is uncommon and declining but locally abundant on passage. The Grey-faced Buzzard Butastur indicus forms a superspecies with Grasshopper Buzzard-hawk Butastur rufipennis (Afrotropical), Rufous-winged Buzzard-hawk Butastur liventer (Indomalayan) and White-eyed Buzzard-hawk Butastur teesa (Indomalayan).

The species breeds in Japan, Korea, Manchuria and Eastern Siberia. Their winter range includes Southern China, South-East Asia, the Philippines, Celebes and New Guinea. There appear to be two populations. The first population group being found on Japan and the second on mainland Asia. The Japanese population migrates through the Ryukyu Islands and Taiwan to winter in the Philippines. The second population moves south into Southern China and South-East Asia to winter. There is some indication that small numbers of Russian and Manchurian birds also use the island route to winter in the Philippines. Current estimates are that the Japanese population totals about 32 000 pairs with their young of the year.

As the Japanese population moves south in autumn, they enter Taiwan in large flocks in the north-eastern part of the island and follow the eastern side of the north-south mountainous spine of the island. They fly south following mountainous ridges and roosting in river valleys. At the southern tip of Taiwan they pass through the Heng-chun Peninsula in large numbers in the second week of October and often roost close to Man-chou Village (sometimes spelt Manjhou). In the spring they tend to follow the western foothills of the central mountain range northwards in small groups and gather in fairly large numbers from mid to late March in the Baguashan area, Chunghua County, West-Central Taiwan.

Historically, the greatest threat to the Grey-faced Buzzard in Taiwan has been the uncontrolled hunting of the species in the Baguashan and Heng-chun Peninsula areas. Hunting and trapping of Grey-faced Buzzard in the Baguashan and Heng-chun Peninsula areas has gone on for generations. It seemed that locals originally hunted them as a source of food. The species was known to migrate over long distances and it was believed that they must possess great stamina and strength. Even the Chinese common name bears reference to its migration. The species is commonly called “Nan-lu Ing” which translates to “South Road Eagle.” The species began to be seen as a type of “tonic food” that would impart the attributes of strength and stamina to those that ate it.

It would appear that the species was never really hunted to sell as a “tonic food” but rather as what was seen as a traditional “precious gift” to be given to family and friends.

During Taiwan's Japanese colonial period (1895-1945) very little was known about the status of the species in Taiwan. Hachisuka & Udagawa in their Contribution to the Ornithology of Formosa published in 1951 describe only three known specimens taken from Taiwan. It is very clear that the scientific community was not aware that the species migrated through Taiwan in large numbers in the early fifties. By the mid 1960’s the Migratory Animal Pathological Survey (MAPS) * bird banding team was aware of a large migration of Grey-faced Buzzard through Taiwan and that Man-chou villagers on the Heng-chun Peninsula were hunting them but the extent of this hunting was not known and was of little concern. During this period there was a change in the reason for hunting the species. The focus shifted from food to specimens. There was a demand for specimens from the local tourist trade and a growing market in Japan.

The virtues of raptors and the qualities they represent are admired in Japan. The practice of keeping mounted raptors had been a long standing tradition in Japan. A raptor mount was believed to bring prosperity and good fortune into the life of the owner.

With little or no control and a culture of utilizing wildlife resources unchecked, the hunting of raptors for skins to export to Japan grew alarmingly in the late 1960s and continued through the 1970s. To a lesser extent raptors were still hunted and trapped for food, Chinese medicine, falconry, sport and mounts for the local market and tourist trade.

The Grey-faced Buzzard is seldom hunted on the wing. Generally two methods are used to trap or hunt the species in Taiwan. The first method is to put up attractive long bamboo roosting poles with a foot snare in the known area of the roost during the day. In the late afternoon when the Grey-faced Buzzards descend to roost they get caught in the snares. This was the general method used in the Baguashan area. The second is to watch where the Grey-faced Buzzards descend to roost and once darkness falls, to go into the roost area and stun the birds with a spotlight and shoot them with a crossbow like weapon or, in more recent times, a type of gas charged air gun. This method was generally used on the Heng-chun Peninsula. It is known that an experienced hunter can take seventy-eighty Buzzards in a single night.

Between 1976 and 1977, sixty-thousand Grey-faced Buzzard skins were shipped to Japan. Records also show that during the period 1978-1979, another thirty thousand skins were exported to Japan. Grey-faced Buzzards were not the only raptors being hunted. Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela, Besra Accipiter virgatus, Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis, Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus, Oriental Honey-Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus, Osprey Pandion haliatus, Mountain Hawk Eagle Spizaetus nipalensis, and Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus were also being hunted and shipped to Japan.

Grey Faced Buzzard: courtesy of Richard Yu

The first real report of the desperate plight of the species was published in Echo magazine in1979. The report covered the October 1978 hunting of the species around Man-chou village. This was the starting point for the fight to save the species.

The report generated a lot of interest and concern over the hunting of the species. The publicity lead to feelings of hostility by the hunters in Man-chou towards concerned and interested outsiders. The president of the Taipei Bird Club coordinated a meeting in an attempt to ease tensions between the hunters and concerned individuals.

Out of these tensions, Taiwan’s first informal coalition of environmentalists, birders, NGOs and some relevant government agencies was born. At the same time the Japanese also made inquiries over the specimen trade. In August 1978, the Director of the Wild Bird Society of Japan had come to Taiwan to investigate the specimen trade between Taiwan and Japan. His report blamed Japanese specimen traders for providing the incentive for the large-scale hunting of the species in Taiwan.

Pressure was mounting and awareness was growing. In October 1979 a seminar sponsored by the Animal Protection Society was held in Kenting. There was great media interest in the seminar. The seminar lead to the establishment of the Migratory Bird Protection Program.

The media and performing arts played a very important role in creating awareness. National Day is 10 October. As the height of the Grey-faced Buzzard migration falls approximately on the same date, the Grey-faced Buzzard became known as the National Day Bird. This type of publicity coupled with education and awareness campaigns started to have an impact. Reports such as “To protect the eagles at Man-chou” (Wild Bird 1. 1980) by conservationist John Wu Sen-hsiong really highlighted the plight of the species. John Wu Sen-hsiong featured very prominently in the conservation effort and would go on to write the highly regarded “A Field Guide to the Wild Birds of Taiwan” which was published in 1991. Much of his story can be read in Kate Rogers’s “The Swallows’ Return.”

In 1981 the Construction and Planning Administration (CPA) within the Ministry of the Interior was established and tasked with the setting up of Taiwan’s national park system. The same year also saw the establishment of Kenting National Park, Taiwan’s first national park. The establishment of the park as a protected area was a major boost for the conservation effort and would mark the start of a decade of growing legal protection for the species. Another milestone was the hosting of the second East Asian Bird Protection Conference in Kenting National Park in 1983 which placed Taiwan’s conservation efforts under an international spotlight.

Through the efforts of concerned individuals and groups in Taiwan, Japan, and internationally, the plight of the Grey-faced Buzzard continued to be tackled into the next decade. Continuous awareness was raised through ongoing education programs. Activities promoting the conservation of the species were held at schools and temples in the area. The government was persuaded to issue postage stamps and mint coins depicting the Grey-faced Buzzard and Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus** to help raise awareness of the plight of migrating birds.

The Wild Bird Society of Japan and other concerned organizations successfully brought about legislation in Japan that effectively put an end to the importation of raptor skins and the demand for Taiwan’s Grey-faced Buzzard skins faded.

After the close of the Japanese market in the early eighties it appears that the trapping of live raptors for falconry and sale to raptor fanciers increased greatly. Raptors being hunted for sport also increased but overall the levels of hunting were decreasing substantially.

The 90s dawned with the species enjoying full protection from hunting. The efforts of the Wild Bird Society of ROC, now called the Wild Bird Federation Taiwan, and the Conservation Club of Chung Hsing University were very notable. Apart from their actual conservation efforts, these organizations along with many concerned individuals supplied academics like Dr Sheldon R. Severinghaus and Dr Lucia Liu Severinghaus with information needed to study the species and make informed suggestions on how best to conserve it. Indeed, Dr Lucia Liu Severinghaus’s paper “The Status and Conservation of Grey-Faced Buzzard-Eagles and Brown Shrikes Migrating Through Taiwan” (ICBP No. 12. 1991) is very valuable reading for anyone interested in conservation in Taiwan.

Conservation efforts continued into the nineties. In the early 1991 the Wild Bird Society of Chunghua was established. The new society played a vital role in the protection and monitoring of Grey-faced Buzzards during the spring migration period in the Baguashan area of Chunghua County. The Baguashan Birdfair was established as an annual event in March 1991 and promoted raptor watching in the area. The society also did much to raise local awareness through education programs.

Grey Faced Buzzard: courtesy of Richard Yu

The efforts to end the hunting of the species have been largely successful. The story of the effort to save the Grey-faced Buzzard is one that Taiwan can truly be proud of. Today, raptor watching has become a major activity in Kenting and Baguashan. Thousands flock to Kenting every October to watch the raptors passing through. In March the raptor viewing station on Baguashan is packed with raptor lovers. The conservation of the Grey-faced Buzzard in Taiwan stands as an example to the rest of Asia as to what can be achieved when people come together and work to change a culture of exploitation of a species. It clearly shows that attitudes can be changed.

Sadly, some hunting still continues in secret. Lin Wen-horn of the Raptor Research Group of Taiwan and author of “A Field Guide to the Raptors of Taiwan” (YLib, Green Pocket. 2006) estimates that about fifty hunters are still active. This shows that there is still work to be done. Education and awareness must continue and the law enforcement agencies must continue to enforce the law. It is also known that the species is hunted in the Philippines and the Ryukyu Islands.

The sight of thousands of Grey-faced Buzzard and Chinese Sparrowhawk passing through Kenting National Park and Baguashan Scenic Area each year is truly wondrous. Taiwan is indeed blessed to host such awe inspiring natural events. With this blessing comes responsibility and that is to ensure that these noble creatures are given safe passage through Taiwan on their journey to other lands. The migration of birds is the earth’s only truly unifying natural phenomenon. It binds the nations and the continents of the world together in a way that nothing else does and gives a shared responsibility to all of mankind that it is preserved.

By Mark Wilkie,
Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association



* Migratory Animal Pathological Survey (MAPS)
“This bird banding project was a result of an initiative by the United States military and related agencies to investigate possible links between the movements of migratory birds and seasonal outbreaks of various zoonoses (e.g. haematozoa) throughout the Palearctic region, including South Korea, Japan, Okinawa, Hong Kong, Taiwan, The Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and India. The eight-year Migratory Animal Pathological Survey program was initiated in 1963 in Japan by the US Military.”
Rebecca L. Holberton, Department of Biology, University of Mississippi, on the book, Migration and Survival of the Birds of Asia.-H. Elliott McClure. 1998.

**Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
Barbecued Brown Shrike was considered a local delicacy and was also being trapped in large numbers.

Also see:

Huben Birding Stories
Birding in the Huben-Hushan Area
Birding in Taiwan and Yunlin County
Hushan Bird List
Threatened Birds of the Huben-Hushan area
Fairy Pitta Gallery
Taiwan Bird Books


Birdlife International. (2004). Important Bird Areas in Asia. Key Sites for Conservation. Wakefield, UK, H.Charlesworth & Co.

Chun Sheng. (1979). Night Hunting at Man-chou. Echo Magazine, No 5, p84-87. ROC. (In Mandarin)

Ferguson-Lees et al. (2001). Raptors of the World. Helm, London.

Hachisuka, M & Udagawa, T. (1951). Contributions to the Ornithology of Formosa Part II. Quarterly Journal of the Taiwan Museum. Vol. IV.

Lin, W.H. (2006). A Field Guide to the Raptors of Taiwan. YLib, Green Pocket.
Taipei, Taiwan. (In Mandarin)

Liu. et al. (2005). Birdwatching in Taiwan. Wild Bird Society of Taipei. Taipei, Taiwan.
McClure, H.E. (1974). Migration and Survival of the Birds of Asia. SEATO Medical Project. Bangkok, Thailand.

MacKinnon, J & Phillipps, K. (2000). A Field Guide to the Birds of China. Oxford, Oxford University Press, UK.

Raptor Research Group of Taiwan: Chen, S.C. (2004/2005) Raptor Watch in Kenting National Park. Kenting National Park Headquarters, Pingtung, Taiwan.

Rogers, K. (2005). The Swallows' Return. A foreigner's history of birdwatching, conservation and culture in Taiwan. TESRI, Taipei, Taiwan.

Severinghaus, L.L. (1991). The status and conservation of Grey-faced Buzzard-eagle and Brown Shrike migrating through Taiwan. ICBP Technical Publication No.12.

Wu, S.H. (1980). To protect the eagles at Man-chou. Wild Bird 1. ROC.

Wu, et al. (1991). A Guide to the Wild Birds of Taiwan Taipei, Taiwan Wild Bird Information Centre and Wild Bird Society of Japan. (In Mandarin)



A big thank you to Lin Wen-horn of the Raptor Research Group of Taiwan for his valuable input and to photographer Richard Yu of Formosa Birding for the use of his photographs. Also, to author Kate Rogers and her husband Derrick Wilby for all their help and to Ann Chaplin for her continued help and support in securing information in the UK for me. Finally, a very special thank you to Scott Lin Ruey-shing of the Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute for his ongoing help and support in this and many other projects.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Formosa Steel Plant update

Reclamation work at the Formosa Plant, Mailiao

Hushan Dam will largely supply water for the further development of heavy industry on Taiwan's west coast. The Formosa Steel Plant is one such project. Below is an update on the EIA process concerning this project.

Taipei:-26 September 2007

The seventh term of the Environmental Protection Administration's (EPA) Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Commission met today to discuss, in a “pre-meeting meeting”, the proposed Formosa Steel Plant, which the developer, Formosa Plastics, would like to see built next to its existing petrochemical industrial complex that lies along side the Jhuoshui River estuary between Yunlin County and Changhua County in central Taiwan.

An official from Taiwan’s EPA began by summarizing its version of the procedural history of the case. The first committee meeting on the case took place in March 2006. One year later, during the fourth meeting of the review committee, on 19 March 2007, the committee recommended that the development go into a second phase assessment. However, that recommendation never made it to the plenary commission. According to the EPA, the developer requested an opportunity to “submit additional materials”. Breaking with its normal procedure (although not unprecedented) of referring the review committee’s decision to the plenary commission, the EPA staff granted the request with a deadline of 31 May 2007.

As the deadline loomed, the EPA continued, the developer stayed the proceedings by filing an objection to the presence of five commissioners on the review committee. Claiming that the commissioners are “quasi-public officials” and that these five in particular had expressed prejudice against the development. Thus, according to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the five should be disqualified from further participation in the proceedings. The EPA accepted the complaints agreeing with the position that the commissioners are public officials for purposes of the APA, but referred the other issues to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). This effectively ensured that the five commissioners in question would have no opportunity to participate in the plenary commission’s discussion of the case as under the APA such questions must be cleared up before the proceedings can continue.

The EPA has not announced the Ministry of Justice’s decision in the matter, and environmental groups have been unable to discern whether the MOJ ever made a determination as to the disqualification of commissioners or whether the EPA was correct in accepting the complaints in the first place. The EPA also failed to mention that the Taiwan Academy of Ecology filed a similar complaint to disqualify the seven government representatives that sit on the commission, or how that complaint was dismissed by the EPA on the grounds that the Academy did not have standing.

After hearing the reports from the developer and its government sponsor, the Industrial Development Bureau, one of the commissioners requested that the representative of an environmental group be allowed to speak. The EPA chief of the EIA section, Tsai Ling-yi, then prompted the representative of a local township to speak out in favor of the project.

After a closed door discussion by the commissioners and other government agency representatives it was announced that the committee would “respect” the decision of the previous committee and send the case to the plenary commission with the recommendation that it go into second phase evaluation.

The EPA’s lack of objectivity in handling the case has been cited numerous times and following the meeting this morning it was learned that the EPA plans to include this case in the plenary meeting which is scheduled to be held on the afternoon of 1 October 2007. This sudden burst of “efficiency” comes despite numerous requests from commissioners (sixth and seventh terms) that commissioners be given materials regarding all cases that are to be discussed and decided upon seven days in advance of the meeting. There has also been no public announcement of the meeting or its agenda as of close of business 26 September 2007.

As to some of the substantive issues discussed:

Sousa chinensis Dolphins: The developer cited the 2004-2006 study and report commissioned by the Council of Agriculture but made written and oral statements to the effect that there are no dolphins of the coast where the plant will be built but also noted that plans are underway to cooperate with the Taiwan Cetacean Society (TCS) to conduct further research. Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association is following up with a letter to the Council of Agriculture (COA) and a letter to the TCS to point out the abusive way the former’s research is being used and to request that the latter make a statement clarifying its research.

[It should be noted that the recently concluded Second International Taiwan Humpback Dolphin Workshop (funded partially by the Forestry Bureau and other Taiwanese government agencies) very clearly defined the distribution of the humpback dolphin in western Taiwan and stated that the distribution area clearly included the waters around the present FPG site and the newly reclaimed land. This was accepted by all the foreign dolphin experts present (including the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group's chair; and a NOAA senior scientist). This distribution that includes the FPG area is being published in an international, reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journal so ignoring this may well result in the lack of credibility for a number of government agencies when respected scientists start asking questions about the distribution.]

Cumulative impact of the project:

The developer continued its former pattern of focusing on the technology that would be used in this plant and how it is much cleaner and environmentally friendlier than that currently being used in Taiwan. No cumulative impact was acknowledged even though the developer’s sister project, the 6th Naphtha Cracker has acknowledged that pollution levels are far over acceptable levels.

Impact on existing economy:

The developer and the Industrial Development Bureau (IDB) also continue to ignore the adverse impact on aquaculture, not only in the immediate area of the planned project, but also the impact on other areas that rely on the raw materials produced in the area for downstream aquaculture products.

Public support for the case:

The developer cited polls that indicate over 50% of the respondents “conditionally support” the project failing to note that the condition is for this case to be bundled with the proposed 8th Naphtha Cracker.

Observers at this morning’s meeting noted that the participating commissioners, with one exception (and a second exception who participated by written opinion), seemed inclined to over rule the committee decision and let the case pass without going into a second phase evaluation.

[The Taiwan Green Party is mobilizing environmental and social groups from around Taiwan to attend the 156th plenary commission meeting. They and others in the coalition will hold a press conference on recent initiatives to get complete and accurate information about EIAs out in the open and in advance of the meetings. While the EPA has told commissioners the meeting will take place on 1 October, commissioners have yet to receive the agenda:-27 September 2007]

Also see:
Environmental Impact Review Committee Meeting

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hushan Update

Access Control Point-Hushan

The Hushan Reservoir figured prominently in the recent Taiwan Humpback Dolphin Workshop in that redirection of the water of the Cingshui River will exacerbate the reduction of freshwater flowing into the ocean, one of the major threats identified by scientists studying the animals.

A group of Chinese environmental media reporters were turned away from the Youcing Valley last week during a visit to Taiwan. The Water Resources Agency cited safety concerns. Local environmental groups in the area have cited lack of access to the area as the reason for not spending more time in the area, but others have criticized the local groups saying that someone should be in the area everyday watching over the developers. The original EIA was supposed to have set a precedent by those commissioners who approved the case "with tears in their eyes" as they attached a commitment for the developer (WRA) to use one per cent of the development costs for a comprehensive ecology preservation plan and implementation. To date, the WRA's committee has held three meetings but very little action has taken place, other than just prior to visits by EIA commissioners last year.

Seven volunteer lawyers organized by the Taipei Bar Association's Environmental Law Group have held two meetings on assisting the environmental groups that are bringing legal action against the Taiwan Environmental Protection Agency, and will be filing the formal court proceedings at the end of September. This is one of a very small number of actions that will be filed under the Environmental Impact Assessment Act to compel the EPA to order the developer to cease construction. One subgroup of the lawyers have spoken with prominent archaeologists concerning the recent discovery of 3000+ old ruins in the area of the reservoir and associated facilities and are preparing to file separate actions under Taiwan's Cultural Affairs Preservation Act.

Also see:
Newly Discovered Archeological Sites in the area of the Hushan Dam

Sunday, September 9, 2007

More Water Related Arrests

Taiwan Water Co chairman Hsu Hsiang-kun and four others were arrested on Friday afternoon on suspicion of corruption. The string of arrests involving water related issues grows. Nothing specifically has come to the fore on corruption involving the handling of the Hushan Dam Project but one can't help wondering.

See Saturday's Taipei Times article Taiwan Water chairman Hsu, four others arrested

Also see Vice minister of Economic Affairs detained for bribery

The EIA Process and the Second International Workshop on the Taiwan Humpback Dolphins

Taiwan humpback Dolphins

The Second International Workshop on the Conservation and Research Needs of the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins, Sousa chinensis, in the waters of western Taiwan took place in Changhua City, west-central Taiwan last week.

Amongst the delegates was Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association's Robin Winkler, a Taipei based lawyer. Robin Winkler gave a presentation on the Environmental Impact Assessment process in Taiwan. Much of what Winkler said goes a long way into explaining how projects like the Hushan Dam Project are able to get pushed through the EIA process.

Robin Winkler's Presentation.

Well known Taiwan based blogger, Michael Turton (The View from Taiwan), attended the workshop last Wednesday. See Michael Turton's Pacific Humpback Dolphin Workshop post about the workshop and Winkler's presentation.

Also see Taiwan Humpback Dolphin Workshop - Press Release.