Monday, September 29, 2008

Hushan Dam Update: - The citizen's suit against the EPA

On Wednesday, September 24Th, the first hearing on the citizen's suit against the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) was held -- nearly a year and a half after our first letter! So much for justice.

The application for an injunction had earlier been refused. There was an appeal and on August 29 the Supreme Administrative Court remanded the case for further review. A hearing date has yet to be set by the High Administrative Court which is a little strange given the urgency of injunctions.

At the September 24Th hearing ten groups opposing the dam were represented by George Chen and Sanjia Lin, and the EPA had a lawyer. The hour hearing focused mostly on claims that the EPA's permission for the construction was flawed and that the EPA should cancel the permission based on illegality or in the alternative on the grounds that circumstances have changed (e.g., discovery of the Fairy Pitta's important breeding grounds, 921 earthquake induced geologic changes, and climate change.).

Overall the claim is that the EPA neglected its duty to order the work to stop on the dam -- a project we assert is proceeding illegally -- and that the major violations of the terms of the environmental impact assessment are such that they constitute "major flaws" for purposes of article 23 of the EIA Act and that the EPA therefore has the authority to shut down the project.

Interestingly the EPA's lawyer spent most of the time defending the EPA by saying things like "The EPA has been doing a good job, really it has. We have already fined the developer, the Central Water Resources Agency, twice for their misbehavior".

While it may be very difficult to stop the dam at this point, this action is helping to make a record and also perhaps demonstrate that these agencies can't be so cavalier in the future.

The next hearing on the merits is on October 22ND, 2008.

Some recent photos of the Hushan area

Taiwan is also known as Typhoon Island. Our fourth typhoon of the season has just passed over the island. Typhoons bring heavy rain and strong winds. Landslides are common and bridges get washed away on occasions. During construction of the dam large areas of deforested land lay open to the elements to erode silting up rivers as valuable top soil washes away.

While undoubtedly the construction crews try to minimise this erosion because it causes delays for them, they are pretty powerless against the mighty forces of a typhoon.

Some recent photos of the Hushan area follow showing construction work and some of the damage caused by recent typhoons. Who knows what damage has been caused during the present typhoon? Looking at some of the damage to the bridge and construction work once again highlights the question many have long been asking. Will this dam really be able to stand up to Taiwan's frequent typhoons and earthquakes? Is this not all just a real waste of a very important environmental area?

All photos courtesy of C.C.Chen

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why are we building dams for new power plants ?

The world's dirtiest ! Wuchi Power Plant through the haze (Taichung).

Read the article titled, Emissions policy doesn't add up from today's Taipei Times and then ask yourself the question, Why are we building dams for new power plants ?

Destroying valuable natural areas like Hushan, part of an internationally recognised important bird area (IBA), so new dams can supply huge quantities of water to new and upgraded power plants, and the new heavy industry that those power plants are supplying power to, and in the process increase emissions by up to 40% and at the same time wreck large areas of coastal habitat through reclamation projects and pollution which will likely result in the extinction of the critically endangered population of Taiwan humpback dolphin when we are trying to reduce emission levels because of the very real threat of global warming just seems insane. Wow! What a mouthful. Well, you get the point. Read the article, ask the question, and if you figure out the logic in this, please let us know.

Also see:
Planting trees a PR ploy

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Japanese Paradise Flycatcher seen in Hushan

Japanese Paradise Flycatcher: courtesy of Richard Yu.

Forests being cleared for the Hushan Dam

Ten days ago a Japanese Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone atrocaudata) was recorded in the Huben/Hushan Important Bird Area (IBA) by researchers. The Japanese Paradise Flycatcher is very rare in Taiwan and this is the first record from the area. The Japanese Paradise Flycatcher is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red Data List. This is just another reason why this important natural area needs to be protected not destroyed!

An updated bird list for the area will be issued shortly.

Update: Orange-flanked Bush Robin: A new bird species for Hushan; and resightings of the Japanese Flycatcher.