Friday, August 31, 2007

More coal-fired power plants planned

More coal-fired power plants planned. Most of this development will take place on Taiwan's west coast with water from Hushan Dam. These power plants should help Taiwan nicely on their path to become the world leader in per capita CO2 emissions. Taiwan is currently ranked third in the world for per capita CO2 emissions (Taiwan’s 11.9 tons/per capita emission rate far exceeds the 3.9 world average).

See yesterday's China Post article Taiwan seeks coal-fired power plants to plug shortfall.

Also see The Cost of Taiwan's Development.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Stop Hushan Dam Blog Revamped

Fairy Pitta: courtesy of Richard Yu

We've revamped the Stop Hushan Dam Blog. As with any revamp problems occur. Hopefully we've got things fixed up and working. If you come across any problems please let us know by posting a comment or sending us on e-mail (contact details given in the right toolbar).

The EPA's "Green" Initiative

Taipower, Wuchi, Taichung.

Last week Taiwan's Environmental Protection Administration's (EPA) announced that Taiwan plans to present a "green" initiative at next month's APEC forum. See today's Taipei Times editorial, EPA announcement full of hot air. Yes, this is really laughable.

Also see:
The Cost of Taiwan's Development
The seventh Environmental Impact Assessment Committee of Great Concern to Environmentalists
Questions of water conservation

Thursday, August 23, 2007

EPA Under Fire From Environmentalists on its 20th Birthday

The EPA was again accused by environmental organisations of failing to protect Taiwan's environment.

See Environmental activists give `tumor cake' to EPA in today's Taipei Times.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Cost of Taiwan's Development

Kenting, southern Taiwan

Taiwan, an island on the Pacific Rim, straddles the Tropic of Cancer. Taiwan is generally not regarded as one of the great birding or naturalist destinations of the Oriental faunal region but it is indeed a birder’s or nature lover’s paradise that is all too often overlooked.

Taiwan is better known as one of Asia’s little dragons. Taiwan’s economic miracle tends to be what people associate Taiwan with. People think of countless toys, gadgets and electronic wares all labeled, “Made in Taiwan.”

Taiwan’s economic growth came at a great cost to Taiwan’s fragile environment. Much of natural Taiwan disappeared in clouds of pollution and storms of development but there are still natural areas left and these areas desperately need protection.

Wuchi on Taiwan's west coast

Taiwan, which covers an area of 36,000 square kilometers, may be small (0.025 percent of the total land on earth) but it showcase’s the entire range of climates from tropical to subarctic. This gives rise to an amazingly high level of biodiversity that few places on earth can match.

Hehuanshan Area

Taiwan, rising from tropical beaches to the highest mountains in East Asia (Yushan Peak 3952m, with over 200 peaks higher than 3000m), is in many ways a living laboratory housing samples of almost all of Asia’s ecosystems.

“Small but incredibly diverse and beautiful” aptly describes Taiwan’s natural environment. Taiwan boasts over 46, 360 described species of flora and fauna. Ten percent of the world’s marine species are found in the waters around Taiwan. 4,200 species of vascular plants grow in Taiwan which includes an amazing 700 species of ferns.

Taiwan has a very high level of endemism:-25 percent of Taiwan’s 4,200 species of vascular plants, 30 percent of 70 mammal species, 12 percent of 150 freshwater fish species, 60 percent of the 20,000 insect species which includes almost 400 butterfly species, 31 percent of amphibians, and 22 percent of reptiles. Of Taiwan’s approximately 520 recorded bird species 17 are endemic with 67 endemic subspecies.

Because of Taiwan’s small land area, the impact of over exploitation of its natural resources all too often leads to catastrophic results. The exploitation of Taiwan’s forests by the camphor and timber industries has destroyed much of the island’s old growth forests. The uncontrolled hunting of the Formosan sika deer lead to its near extinction by the early part of the twentieth century. This, coupled with post World War II development resulting in the destruction of remaining sika habitat, pushed the species over the brink and by the late 1960s the species became extinct in the wild. Today, a small token population of this once abundant species has been reintroduced to Kenting National Park using “wild turned” domestic stock. Taiwan’s Clouded Leopards haven’t been seen for years and are almost certainly now extinct.

Formosan Sika Stag.

Whaling in the waters around Taiwan has resulted in the extermination of the population of humpback whales that once wintered in the waters of southern Taiwan. In fact, large whales haven’t been observed in the waters around Taiwan for more than two decades but whaling records show that humpback, sperm, fin, blue, and sei whales were all taken in these waters during the twentieth century.

It is also known that the dugong was found off the west coast before development destroyed its seagrass habitat. Today, a unique Taiwan population of fewer than a hundred Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins looks likely to follow their recently extinct Yangtze River dolphin cousins over the edge unless something drastic is done to save them. Despite their status as a protected species and their desperately small population size, the Taiwan Government seems willing to deal the death blow through further development of heavy industry along the west coast fueled by water from the controversial Hushan Dam project.

Taiwan Humpback Dolphins

Taiwan also occupies a prominent position on the East Asian Flyway. Taiwan is the winter home of the threatened Black-faced Spoonbill and Saunders’s Gull. The fall raptor migration through Taiwan’s southern tip is amongst the world’s twenty largest, with figures as high as 50,000 raptors from 26 diurnal raptor species being recorded in a single day at the climax of the fall migration period.

Taiwan has a total of 53 IBAs or Important Bird Areas. For its size, Taiwan has a very high number of IBAs. Only 11 or 21% fall within totally protected areas. 17 IBAs or 32% fall within partially protected areas. That leaves 25 or 47% of Taiwan’s IBAs without any protection. Huben, the summer home of the rare and stunningly beautiful Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha, is one of the IBAs without any protection and much of this IBA’s important habitat is threatened by the construction of the Hushan Dam (422 hectares excluding access roads) . A dam that will supply the water needs to further develop heavy industry on the west coast in a country which ranks number three in the world for per capita CO2 emissions (Taiwan’s 11.9 tons/per capita emission rate far exceeds the 3.9 world average).

Mark Wilkie,
Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Taiwan Bird Books

Some information on Taiwan birding related books.

Field Guides:

A Guide to the Birds of Taiwan, Sheldon Severinghaus, Kang Kuo-wei and Paul Alexander; The China Post 1970.

New Guide to the Birds of Taiwan, Sheldon Severinghaus & Kenneth Blackshaw, Mei Ya Publications 1976, ISBN-10: 0915180057; ISBN-13: 978-0915180059.

A Field Guide to the Wild Birds of Taiwan, (John) Wu Sen-hsiang et al. Taiwan Wild Bird Information Centre 1991, ISBN: 957-9578-00-1. (Mandarin with English common names).

A Field Guide to the Birds of Taiwan, (James) Chang Wan-fu, Cheng & Tsui 1999, ISBN-10: 0917056434; ISBN-13: 978-0917056437. (Text in Mandarin with common names and status in English).

A Field Guide to the Birds of China, John MacKinnon & Karen Phillipps, Oxford University Press 2000, ISBN-10: 0198549407.

Birding Location Guides:

A Birders Guide to Taiwan, Dave Sargeant, Spiralbound, 1998.

Birdwatcher’s Guide to the Taipei Region, Kao Li-fung et al, Department of Information, Taipei City Government 2004, ISBN: 957-01-7797-7.

Birdwatching in Taiwan, Shi Rui-De et al, Wild Bird Society Taipei 2005, ISBN: 957-98751-9-7.

Threatened Birds:

Saving the Black-faced Spoonbill, Chung Hung-pin & Kang Jih-sheng, Tainan County Government 2003, ISBN: 957-98168-1-6. (Bilingual).

Guide to the Threatened Birds of Taiwan, Fang Woei-horng, Owl Publishing House 2005, ISBN-10: 9867415817. (Bilingual).


The Swallows’ Return: A foreigner’s history of birdwatching, conservation and culture in Taiwan, Kate Rogers, Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute 2006, ISBN: 986-00-4146-6. (Bilingual).

Some of these books are available through the Wild Bird Society of Taipei.
Contact person: May (

Also see:
Birding in Taiwan and Yunlin County

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The 2007 International Symposium for the Fairy Pitta

International speakers at the International Symposium for the Fairy Pitta.
Speakers from L-R: Dr. Nick Brickle; Somying Tanhikorn; Eun-Mi Kim; and Petch Manopawitr.

On Friday the 10th August the 2007 International Symposium for the Fairy Pitta was held in Dounan, Yunlin County, Taiwan. The symposium was organised by the Wild Bird Federation Taiwan (WBFT), BirdLife International's Taiwan partner. The program for the day included:

The distribution and habitat of the Fairy Pitta on Jeju Island, South Korea presented by Eun-Mi Kim, President, Jeju Birdwatcher Group.

Conserving Gurney's Pitta in Thailand: experience and lessons presented by Petch Manopawitr, Vice Chairman, Bird Conservation Society Thailand.

Research on Gurney's Pitta Ecology presented by Somying Tanhikorn, Director, Phuluang Wildlife Research Center, Thailand National Park Division.

Pitta Conservation in Indonesia presented by Dr.Nick Brickle, Program Manager-Indonesia Program, Wildlife Conservation Society.

Reobservation of banded breeding Fairy Pitta in Huben Village, Taiwan presented by Rey-Shin Lin, Researcher, Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute (TESRI).

The Impact of nest predators on the nesting success of the vulnerable Fairy Pitta presented by Wan Jyun Chen, National Taiwan University.

The presentations were of great interest and much could be learned from them. The scientific focus of the symposium was clearly successful. An understanding on regional cooperation was also reached. However, disappointingly, the WBFT chose not to address current conservation issues concerning Taiwan's Fairy Pitta in the symposium and issues such as the loss of habitat in and around the Huben Important Bird Area (IBA) and the impact of the Hushan Dam project on the species were not covered at all. BirdLife International expressed concern over the future of Taiwan's Fairy Pitta in a news release in June saying the [Hushan] Dam raises global concerns over future of Fairy Pitta . With such international concern being expressed, the failure of the symposium to cover this issue was surprising. One couldn't help noticing that Taipower and Chinese Petroleum Corporation, two organisations that stand to benefit from the construction of the Hushan Dam, were amongst the sponsors.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The seventh Environmental Impact Assessment Committee of Great Concern to Environmentalists

The recent appointment of the seventh Environmental Impact Assessment Committee of the EPA has been of great concern to many environmental groups. All five true environmentalists that served on the sixth committee have been replaced by, what many perceive to be, pro development academics and experts who will likely give the nod to a number of controversial projects which up until now have been held up because of environmental concerns. This paints a very bleak future for the Fairy Pitta of Hushan and Taiwan's Humpback Dolphins.

Yesterday, Green Party Taiwan Secretary-General Pan Han-shen held a mock funeral protest outside the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) during the first sitting of the seventh Environmental Impact Assessment Committee.

See today's Taipei Times article titled Activists say assessments are a sham.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

25% of Hushan Completed

A brief report in today's Taipei Times says that 25% of Hushan Dam has been completed and that the Reservoir project on time.

The Hushan Dam project is once again put forward as the solution to Yunlin County's groundwater problems. What the piece fails to mention is that only around 12% of the water in Hushan will go towards domestic consumption and that the remainder is for industrial use in mostly new industrial development projects. The Hushan Dam isn't the solution to Yunlin's groundwater and land sinkage problems. Sound management and environmental consideration is the solution, not further development of heavy polluting industry.

In related news the Vice minister of Economic Affairs has been detained for bribery concerning bid-rigging on water related construction projects. Taiwan Water Corp vice president Yang Shui-yuan and Chang Yi-min, director of the Water Resources Agency's second river management office are also suspected of involvement in the bid-rigging on the construction projects. One can't but wonder about Hushan.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Sixty Days are up:-The EPA Responds to the Alliance's Legal Threats

On May 24th an alliance of environmental advocates demanded that the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) halt the Hushan Reservoir project within sixty days or face legal action (see NGOs set to take on the EPA and Environmentalists give the EPA sixty days to stop Hushan).

Well, sixty days are up and the EPA has responded as expected saying that EPA denies any wrong doing and insist they are in full compliance with the law. Preparations by the alliance of environmental advocates to file a lawsuit with Taiwan's High Administrative Court are underway. We'll keep you posted as we receive more details.