Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year !

A Huben Fairy Pitta (Pitta nympha): photo courtesy of Richard Yu.

Happy New Year and all the best for 2011 !

"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.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Taiwan Bush Warbler: Another New Bird for the Huben-Hushan IBA Bird List

The past few weeks have seen the addition of two new birds to the Huban-Hushan IBA list. On Saturday 6 December bird banders captured an endemic Taiwan Bush Warbler Bradypterus alishanensis in the IBA. The Taiwan Bush Warbler is generally regarded as a bird of the the higher mid altitudes (1700-2600m) but can be found from 1200-3600m. It is unusual to find them in areas such as Huben with an altitude of around 100-200m. Taiwan Bush Warblers are known to descend to lower altitudes during cold periods but that is usually above 1000m.

See the OBC Imagebase for photos of Taiwan Bush Warbler.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Asian Stubtail: New Bird for the Huben-Hushan IBA Bird List

On Saturday 27th November bird banders captured an Asian Stubtail Urosphena squameiceps while doing banding work in the Huben-Hushan Important Bird Area (IBA). This is the first confirmed record of the species in the Huben-Hushan IBA. Earlier in the week a researcher who is familiar with the species believed he had heard a Stubtail calling. However, the bird could not be located.

See the OBC Imagebase for photos of Asian Stubtail.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Resident Black Eagle in Huben ! Wonderful development or should we be asking why?

On 21st September 2009 the first record of a Black Eagle (Ictinaetus malayensis) over the Huben-Hushan IBA was made. On 12 March 2010 researchers from the Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute observed an Indian Black Eagle over the forests adjacent to Huben village. This was the second record of a Black Eagle in the Huben-Hushan IBA. Since that time a Black Eagle has been observed fairly regularly in the general area.

Recently there have been several sightings over the forest near the Bai-ma Temple. It appears that this Black Eagle has become resident in the Huben-Hushan area. This is indeed a very exciting development but also begs the question "why?"

The Indian Black Eagle on Taiwan is listed as Vulnerable and the total population is believed to be between 500-1000 individuals. The Black Eagle is generally associated with healthy old growth mountain forest on Taiwan. The Huben-Hushan IBA has suffered tremendous degradation in recent years and is a pale shade of what the IBA was just five short years ago. True, a few patches of reasonable forest remain. Most of these patches are disturbed in some way or the other and can hardly now be described as healthy old growth forest. In some isolated valleys some very small patches of original forest do remain. Is the Huben-Hushan IBA healthy enough to be genuinely attractive to Black Eagles or is there more to it? Could it be that as healthy mountain forest habitat is being lost, young Black Eagles are not able to find territories in their original domain and are now being forced into marginal lowland forest habitat like the Huben-Hushan IBA? These are questions that need to be asked and answered before we can truly proclaim the presence of a Black Eagle in the Huben-Hushan IBA as a wonderful development.

Also see:
Indian Black Eagle observed over Huben

Thursday, November 11, 2010

November 13, march:- Say No to Kuokuang Petrochemical! Protect our wetlands on the Chunghua coast!

------------------------- Click picture to enlarge -------------------------

On Saturday 13 November 2010, an environmental protection march primarily focused on Kuokuang Plant and other petrochemical issues will take place in Taipei. Petrochemical projects are the Kuokuang Plant planned for Changhua, the FPG 6th Naptha cracker expansion in Yunlin and the 3rd cracker in Kaohsiung. All these petrochemical projects will have a devastating impact on Taiwan's natural environmental. The Hushan Dam will supply water to the FPG 6th Naptha cracker expansion and other such projects. The march is a registered permitted march so foreign persons in Taiwan who wish to join do not need to worry about deportation for being outside of their visa purposes! Meet other marchers at the Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT Station at 14:00 and marchers will march to the Presidential Square at 15:00 where there will be a gathering, and a street party and performances start at 17:00.

Date: Saturday 13 November 2010
Meeting Point: Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT Station
Time: 14:00
Contact: jwang(at)

For more infomation visit the official website.
Also see:
11/13 Petrochemical Policy should turn Green Salvation Parade

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Silver Ghosts of Huben

By Impiyani

Before dawn I was in Huben. It was still very dark and there was a chill in the air as I turned into the yard of Mr. Chang's traditional Taiwanese house. Multitudes of dogs snarled and yapped. They didn't seem very happy to see me. A large roster came over. He seemed friendlier. It was almost as if he was coming over for a predawn chat before doing his morning duty and waking the neighbourhood. Mr. Chang came out and we headed off up the track following the river. We both bounced around on our motorcycles as we made our way to his little wooden cabin further up the valley. Today we had a purpose. We were after the very elusive Silver Ghost of Taiwan's forests.

We reached the cabin and parked the motorcycles. We loaded up and climbed down onto the rocks in the river. To go deep into the Huben forest one has to follow the course of a river or stream. The steep cliffs and thick vegetation make it impossible to get deep into the remote parts of the forest other than by this means. Streams in Huben are very rocky. Generally, they don't carry very much water but when it rains they become raging torrents.

It was still dark as we started on our way. We hadn't gone far when the predawn calling of an endemic Taiwan Partridge started. Mr. Chang responded and the partridge called back. It wasn't far off but the thick forest shielded it from view. We carried on and in the east dawn began to break. The calls of songbirds surrounded us but it was too dark to see anything.

High in the trees above us a Crested Serpent Eagle greeted the new day with a call. Mr. Chang smiled and called back. The eagle immediately responded. We carried on with the soft calls of the eagle floating to us on the breeze.

It was hard going. Despite the chill in the air I was beginning to build up quite a sweat. Mr. Chang indicated we were getting close. Even the slightest rustle of clothing is enough to startle the Ghost. We moved very quietly. We carefully stepped from rock to rock. The forest was just light enough to see a short distance ahead now. We moved forward slowly. We would stop to listen and scan the area ahead for movement. Mr. Chang's sharp ears caught something. I hadn't heard it but he said he had. The Ghost was near.

We moved on. The river narrowed and vegetation had taken root in the stream bed. We stopped and searched the shadows ahead. One second I was looking at a shadow and the next instant the Ghost stepped forward from out of the shadow. We both saw the Ghost at the same instant. There it was. The distinct silver-white back, crest and tail contrasting against the dazzling blue of the body and the fire-red face and legs. I started to shake with excitement. I could hear my heart drumming in my ears. The Ghost melted into the vegetation and disappeared. I stood there breathless. There really wasn't enough light for a shot but I took my camera out of its bag and moved forward.

I crept over boulders and moved towards where the Ghost had vanished. I crept forward and once again it stepped out of the shadows. It was very dark but I took a few shots just to capture the moment. In an almost dream-like state I watched the Silver Ghost moving about in front of me.

A male Swinhoe's Pheasant (Lophura swinhoii) moves through the Huben undergrowth.

Robert Swinhoe had discovered the species, endemic to Taiwan, in April of 1862. He sent the skin to the great English ornithologist John Gould. Gould was the Curator and Preserver at the museum of the Zoological Society of London. It was the height of the great voyages of discovery and Gould was in the unique position of being on the receiving end of skins that were being sent to the Society from every corner of the globe.

Gould had thus described an extraordinary number of species from around the world. Amongst these were Darwin’s legendary finches. He wrote up the description for Robert Swinhoe’s new pheasant and it was published in the 1863 edition of The Ibis. Even the stuffy Victorian, Gould, was impressed by Formosa's Silver Ghost and stated, “This exceedingly beautiful species is one of the most remarkable novelties I have had the good fortune to describe.” He named the species after Swinhoe; Lophura swinhoii. When this majestic species was first revealed to the West, many dubbed the newly described Swinhoe's Pheasant as the world's most beautiful bird. To some, it remains so, and certainly the noble gent I was watching totally captivated me with its graceful splendor.

The pheasant moved off slowly. It was unaware of my presence and I was able to watch it for about two minutes in all. All too quickly time passed and it melted back into the forest. Mr. Chang and I pressed on. I was euphoric. This was my first Huben male. The Swinhoe's Pheasant is considered a bird of the mid elevation mountain forests. The handful that inhabit the lowland hills of Huben indicate that the species certainly did inhabit the central Taiwan lowland forests before humankind turned much of the lush lowland forest into monocrop fields, concrete jungles and industrial estates.

We moved on and then retraced our steps hoping to get another view of the pheasant. No luck second time round, so we pressed on again. Just as we came to a steep rise Mr. Chang’s sharp ears had heard something. We stopped and waited. Moments later I heard it too. There were Ghosts in the undergrowth. We waited. Suddenly Mr. Chang pointed. I didn't see anything and then my eyes caught a movement. There was a pair. I watched them stride through the undergrowth and then they vanished. It was time to head back.

Male Swinhoe's Pheasant (Lophura swinhoii):- Photo courtesy of Richard Yu.

We walked back down the stream. Monarchs, Fulvettas, and Bulbuls moved about through the trees. Some Taiwan Scimitar Babblers started to call. The Crested Serpent Eagle was calling, too. I was soaking the tranquility up and savoring it.At Mr. Chang's cabin we made some Oolong tea. We talked about Huben and its birds. I mentioned the Malayan Night Heron and Mr. Chang imitated the call. From just outside the window there was an immediate response. We both laughed. It was time to go and I climbed on my motorcycle. I had only gone a few meters when the Malayan Night Heron flew across the road. I stopped and snapped a quick shot of it in the early morning sun. It had been very good morning! And mornings such as this are becoming tragically rare.

Malayan Night Heron (Gorsachius melanolophus).

It has been several years since that morning. Since then, much of the Huben-Hushan Important Bird Area (IBA) has fallen victim to the Hushan Reservoir Project, a project that went ahead under extremely dubious legality. The stream is still there. The lower reaches below Mr. Chang’s cabin are covered in concrete now, just another of the concreted streams that have been covered over in the name of anti-erosion work. Too often streams in this area fall victim to schemes cooked up local contractors and officials where healthy streams that don’t have erosion problems get covered in concrete just for a quick buck.

The upper reaches of the stream are still good. The pheasants are still hanging on in their last lowland outpost. The reservoir will no doubt pose a serious barrier to threatened terrestrial birds like the Swinhoe’s Pheasant and Taiwan Partridge. It will increasingly isolate them as their genetic flow from the mountains is severed. Likely, the concrete will keep advancing slowly but steadily upstream and the trees will give way to fields and houses and the last lowland outpost of the noble Swinhoe’s Pheasant will be no more.

This is just one of many such tales. Downstream of the Hushan Reservoir project the fate of the Taiwan pink dolphins hangs in the balance. As we march into the second decade of the new millennium so much hangs in the balance. The catastrophe at Copenhagen has shown us that the world still doesn’t get it. In parting, I’ll leave you with a few words I saw in a post on by a member named 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.

Taiwan pink dolphin (Sousa chinensis).

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Press conference: Year End Elections: First Wave of Green Party Candidates

We've just been sent a press release from the Taiwan Green Party. We'll be interested to hear what their candidates have to say amidst the mudslinging contest between the two major parties; the DPP and KMT. Here's the press release and we'll let you know shortly what the Green Party candidates have to say.

“Give Blue and Green Back to the Skies and Earth; Take Back Politics for the People”

Time: 1400-1500 pm 4 August 2010
Place: Taipei Artists Village No 7 Beiping E Rd (corner of Tianjing Road)

With the year-end elections in Taiwan’s five special municipalities we once again face prospects of the same scorched earth that we were left with after the 2008 mudslinging exercise by the two major political parties.

This time, the candidates put forth by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) are little more than pawns for their respective mayoral candidates and we can expect a continuation of their fiddling while Taipei burns if they are elected again.

The Green Party asks: When will politics get back to being a means for helping the people rather than a means for helping the politicos?

This afternoon we are pleased to announce the first group of Green Party candidates for the year end elections and will also be laying out our policy and procedure for seeking other candidates to join us in the important election activities.

Also attending the press conference are children and companions of the candidates.
Please come and join us and get to know the candidates and the Green Party. Refreshments will be served.

Taipei City District 2 (Neihu, Nangang) LEE Ying-hsuan 25, Soochow University Masters Student

Taipei City District 3 (Sungshan, Sinyi) PAN Hansheng 40, Co-convenor of the Green Party Taiwan

Taipei City District 6 (Da An, Wunshan) CHANG Honglin 39, Secretary General of the Green Party Taiwan

New Taipei City District 1 (Tamshui, Bali, Shimen, Sanjhih) WANG Chongming 31, Tanshui Bring the Youth Back Community Development Association

Contact: Green Party Co-convener PAN Hansheng 0935-295815, Secretary General CHANG Honglin 0936-047168


時間:2010年8月4日(三) 下午2點~3點
地點:台北國際藝術村 幽竹廳 (北平東路7號,天津街口)





台北市第二選區(內湖、南港) 李盈萱 25歲 東吳人權所碩士生
台北市第三選區(松山、信義) 潘翰聲 40歲 綠黨召集人
台北市第六選區(大安、文山) 張宏林 39歲 綠黨秘書長
新北市第一選區(淡水、八里、石門、三芝) 王鐘銘 31歲

綠黨 02-2392-0508 召集人 潘翰聲0935-295815 秘書長 張宏林0936-047168

Friday, July 30, 2010

Opposition pressures Government in wake of the second Formosa fire

Sunday night's fire at the Formosa Plastics Naphtha Cracker plant in Mailiao in Yunlin County. Formosa Plastics were the winners of the infamous Black Planet Award in 2009 for their horrendous environmental track record. Photo courtesy of MFCU.

In response to Sunday night's fire at the Formosa Plastics Group plant in Mailiao in Yunlin County the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said on Wednesday that it would not likely support further expansion for the petrochemical industry if it were re-elected in 2012 because of health and environmental concerns. We welcome this apparent change of heart on the DPP's position on the expansion of the petrochemical industry. However, the DPP needs to demonstrate commitment to such a position to show that their commitment is real. Words alone are meaningless and nothing but opportune criticism of the ruling KMT regime. Yesterday, Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-feng, a member of the opposition DPP, joined a group of Mailiao Township residents protesting outside the Executive Yuan. The question is what is Su going to do today? Joining protests without action is nothing but politicking.

We remember well the then-DPP administration in 2005 pushing for the construction of a planned Naphtha Cracker plant in neighbouring Changhua County. We also remember that Yunlin County Commissioner Su never got behind efforts to stop the Hushan Dam project, a project largely to ensure the water needs of the planned expansion of the petrochemical industry on the west coast.

The DPP's origins go back to the environmental movement of the mid 1980s when Taiwan was under the one-party-dictatorship of the Chinese National Party (KMT). The KMT had enacted Marshal Law in the late 1940s and this period of state-sanctioned terror was only "lifted" in the late 1980s. Because of the DPPs environmental roots the DPP and its allies have been known as the Greens or Green Camp; something many who have concerns for the Taiwan environment find distasteful considering how quickly the DPP abandoned their environmental beliefs when they got into power in 2000. Let's hope that the DPP has had a genuine change of heart and have returned to their original core beliefs.

The KMT also seems to be attempting some form of damage control. A KMT Legislator has proposed amending the Act Governing the Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures to make polluting enterprises give 20 percent of their income tax and 30 percent of their commodity tax directly to cities and counties where their factories are located. The KMT has stopped well short of any attempt to rein in the petrochemical industry and still seems determined to ensure the planned expansion of the industry succeeds. Their draconian forced seizure of property to make way for planned industrial expansion moved up a level. This time it wasn't farmers but unwanted trees and elderly residents who were 'cleared' to make way for the Taipei International Flora Expo.

For more, see the following Taipei Times articles:
DPP turns on petrochemicals

Formosa may need two weeks to restart

Dead fish thrown at Executive Yuan

Also see:
Government quick to defend Formosa Plastics in the wake of a second fire

Formosa Plastics on fire again

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Farm seizures: Siangsiliao farmers fight to save their community

Farm seizures by the government to clear the land for planned industrial expansion are once again in the news. This time it's not the farmers of Dapu in Miaoli County in northwest Taiwan but the farmers of Siangsiliao village in Erlin Township in west-central Taiwan that are being driven off the land to make way for the highly controversial Central Taiwan Science Park expansion at Erlin. See Siangsiliao farmers fight to save their community in today's Taipei times.

Also see: Dapu farmland seizures

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dapu farmland seizures

The Dapu farmland seizures that have featured prominently in the news for the past fortnight once again highlight the government's apparent crusade to ensure their corporate pals get whatever they desire and to hell with anyone or thing that stands in the way.

The seizure of farmland and private land is nothing new in Taiwan. It was done for the Hushan Dam project and they're doing it for the Central Science Park. Often, even if they don't actually seize the land, farms in close proximity to industrial developments fall victim to pollution contaminating fields and turning once productive agricultural land into toxic weed beds.

The seizure of farmland destroys rural communities. Their way of life perishes. Apart from the destruction of rural communities and the social problems this brings as members of agricultural communities are forced to find a new way of life in an urban environment where their skills are not valued or seen as useful; we should also be questioning the wisdom of reducing the nation's agricultural output in a period when food security should be a major concern of the government. With the impact that global warming will have on international food production and with China squeezing Taiwan out of the international arena at every opportunity, should we really be seizing farmland to build industrial complexes that will increase Taiwan's carbon footprint and offer only unsustainable short-term economic benefit usually to only a select few?

What follows is a list of several articles that have appeared in the media concerning the issue of the seizure of farmland for so-called industrial development.

Now is the right time for major land reform

EDITORIAL : Taiwan lacks food security strategy

Land seizure comes under fire

Wu offers Dapu farmers new farmland

Rice fields outside the Presidential Office

Government must stop seizing our farmland

Farmers fail to meet president

Also see:
Farm seizures: Siangsiliao farmers fight to save their community

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hushan Dam to be completed in 2014

Security check point at the entrance to the Hushan Reservoir project site. Deforested hills are visible in the back ground.

Today's Taipei Times tells us that Hushan Reservoir will be completed in 2014. According to the brief article that appears in today's Taipei Times "the construction of the Hushan Reservoir in Yunlin County is scheduled to be completed in 2014 after environmental issues have been resolved." The article goes on to state that, "The reservoir, designed for joint operation with the Jiji Diversion Weir on Jhuoshuei River, will be able to supply 694,000 tonnes of water per day for public, industrial and household use in the Yunlin region,... The project will improve the quantity and quality of domestic water supply in the region,... At present, residents of the area rely heavily on groundwater, it said, adding that the Hushan reservoir project would help prevent land subsidence resulting from groundwater extraction."

At face value it sounds as if the Hushan Reservoir project is the solution to Yunlin County's water problems. However, a very different picture emerges when you take a closer look.

A major cause of the need for residents of the area to have to rely so heavily on the pumping groundwater that ultimately leads to land subsidence problems is because of the over exploitation of the county's water resources by heavy industry. Supposedly, the Hushan Reservoir will correct this. However, when questions are asked as to how much of the project's water is to be allocated to domestic usage and how much is being allocated to industrial usage it soon becomes apparent that Hushan isn't quite what the authorities want you to believe. Figures exceeding even 80% for industrial usage become apparent. And this water isn't to alleviate the current problem but rather to meet the water needs of planned expansion of heavy pollution- generating industry. Industry that will drastically increase Taiwan's carbon emissions at a time when we should be reducing them. The highly controversial Kuokuang Petrochemical Park development alone will result in at least a 7% increase in Taiwan's carbon emissions not to mention the pollution problems it will cause and the destruction of critically important habitat for the critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphins.

In October 2007, despite previous assurances by the Yunlin County based Formosa Plastics Group that they would keep their water usage to a level not exceeding 257,000 tonnes/day, the applied to increase it to 351,000 tonnes/day. When Formosa Plastics committed to 257,000 tonnes/day this commitment was backed by a pledge from the chairman of Formosa Plastics who said they would shut down operations to the extent necessary to meet their commitment to keep water use down. (see More water for Formosa means less for Taiwan) In 2009 the Formosa Plastics Group was awarded the infamous Black Planet Award for its horrendous global environmental track record.

The construction of Hushan Dam has destroyed much of the most important breeding area for the globally threatened Fairy Pitta. The Fairy Pitta wasn't even mentioned in the original environmental impact assessment. The green light for the project was given under extremely dubious legality in 2007 when the Environmental Protection Administration minister told developers that the decision by the EPA's own environmental impact assessment commission was non-binding. The EIA commission had found that work on the project was illegal and should immediately be halted. The legality of the Hushan Reservoir Project still remains before the courts.

The article concludes saying that the Water Resources agency said it had assembled a team of conservationists that, together with Council of Agriculture officials, would conduct studies on forest and river ecology systems in the areas near the reservoir..." and that the agency "would focus on plant and animal conservation, the creation of new habitats and raising environmental awareness."

Again this sounds good but how are we to trust an agency that omitted to even mention the globally threatened Fairy Pitta in its original assessment? The Hushan project has been anything but transparent. What assurances are there of independent study? Many so called "independent" environmental groups in Taiwan are largely headed by academics and others employed by state-owned institutions and organisations. Such people are unlikely to challenge the the state because of fear of jeopardizing their careers within state-run organisations. Many so called NGOs are dependant on state funds or handouts from the very corporations they should be "confronting." (see The 2007 International Symposium for the Fairy Pitta)

Just how will the Hushan Dam Project be perceived by future generations that inherit the problems resulting from run-away heavy industrial development on Taiwan's west coast. Will it stand as a shining example of development? Or will it stand as an everlasting example of the failure of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration to fulfil its mandate which resulted in horrendous environmental destruction and horrific pollution problems? Will Hushan's epitaph be glorious or will it be the extinction of the Taiwan pink dolphins and other species like the Fairy Pitta? Will it be even higher cancer rates in an area that is already seven times the national average? Will the long term health costs and toxic landscape justify the short term financial gains for a few elite business executes? With all the mess we're leaving for our youth and just the next generation, I think the authors of Hushan, Kuokuang and all those other greedy projects will be remembered right up there in a category amongst slave traders and all the other scum of humanity's greedy past.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Corruption in high places: High Court judges and prosecutor held on graft charges

Three High Court judges and a prosecutor held on graft charges ! Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator and Miaoli County commissioner Ho Chi-hui on the run. This scandal has dominated the news for the past week. (see Three judges, prosecutor held on graft charges; Ma accepts Lai In-jaw's resignation)

This most recent scandal followed close on the heels of the assassination of gang boss Weng Chi-nan while some of Taichung's top cops were chilling out in the gangster's office during the shooting and failed to do anything. In the words of Taichung City Police Department Commissioner Hu Mu-yuan "The officers were allegedly connected to gang members and ignored the crime that took place in their presence." As the story continued to break it became clear that Taichung's cops were a regular feature at Weng's office. (see Police sanctioned after man dies in shower of bullets)

One also can't help but remember the dubious legal proceedings in former Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's corruption case and how current Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou came out of his mess spotlessly clean when he was charged with corruption in 2007 shortly before he successfully ran as the KMT candidate for the presidency in the 2008 elections. You see it was all his accountant's doing. He put the money into Ma's bank account. (See Unveiling the real Ma Ying-jeou; A Visit with Former President Chen Shui-bian Raises Questions on Taiwan's Double Standard of Justice; Taiwan: As the World Turns Greased With Corruption)

Corruption in high places is nothing new in Taiwan. It has a shamefully long history. One can't help but be suspicious of the judiciary. One can't help but wonder if there are such things as a fair trial, justice, due process and transparency in Taiwan? Dubious decisions in the cases of the Songshan Tobacco Factory, Hushan Dam and the Kuokuang Petrochemical Park Development remain just that; dubious! One can't help but wonder if Mother Earth, the Taiwan pink dolphins and Hushan's Fairy Pittas could get a fair hearing in Taiwan, can you?

(See Disregard for the legal process:- The last of the great Songshan camphor trees; A First for Taiwan: Supreme Administrative Court Upholds Decision to Void Central Science Park EIA – Farmers, Lawyers & Social Groups Petition )

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ma’s Gang Ramps Up Taiwan’s Emissions, Turns a Blind Eye to Biodiversity and Health Concerns be Damned: “There Ain’t No Stoppin Us!”

A press release sent to us this morning by the Matsu's Fish Conservation Union (MFCU).

MFCU Press Release:
For Immediate Release

Ma’s Gang Ramps Up Taiwan’s Emissions, Turns a Blind Eye to Biodiversity and Health Concerns be Damned: “There Ain’t No Stoppin Us!”

Press conference sponsored by the Matsu’s Fish Conservation Union (MFCU) in front of the Taiwan Environmental Protection [sic] Administration

9 June 2010 1:30 pm
83, Zhonghua Rd. Sec. 1, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City

A mega petrochemical project of the Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co. (KPTC) which in the words of its major shareholder, China Petroleum is being built “to facilitate the vertical upstream, midstream, and downstream integration of oil refining and petrochemical production。。。 as part of a Petrochemical Technology Zone Joint Investment Plan。。。 including the construction of an oil refinery, olefin center, aromatic hydrocarbons center, mid- and downstream petrochemical derivatives plants, co-generation facilities, and industrial harbor.

Originally slated for Yunlin County, next to the infamous Formosa Plastics Offshore Island facility, a more welcoming Chinese KMT local government in Changhua County will host this project that will see Taiwan’s CO2 emissions increase by six to eight percent and at the same time spell the death sentence for a population of critically endangered pink dolphins (Indo Pacific humpback dolphins Sousa chinensis). When MA and Co. get their gang in gear, whether it is climate change or biodiversity, they have got what it takes to be a model for environmental idiocy. The target site for the project also happens to be Taiwan’s cancer corridor, which will be sure to earn MA et al. more high marks for “giving a damn” about the people of Taiwan.

The occasion for this press conference is the unprecedented speed with which Taiwan’s “Mr. EB” (environmental bonehead) and EPA boss, Stephen Shen, can suck up to short term business interests and get those pesky environmental impact assessments out of the way.

In early May, shareholders of Kuokuang complained about delays in the approval for their project to Vincent Siew, No 2 environmental gangster who also happens to be the Vice President of Taiwan. Smiling Vincent, as he is fondly known in the business community got to work, EB and Premier Wu Den-yi slapped some folks around in the Executive, and it looks like all those irritating obstacles will magically disappear. Hey, this is starting to feel like the good old days of martial law – laws? process? who needs em?

Those shareholders, which include China Petroleum, Far Eastern Group, Dairen Chemical and others of the Chang Chun Group, China Man-Made Fibre Corporation,Tung Chemical Corporation, and Fubon Financial can’t really be blamed for taking advantage of what appears to be a fire sale by the Taiwan government of water, land, government services and everything they can get away. No, those companies are just doing their jobs and will no doubt be expected to boost the Chinese KMT candidates chances at the upcoming polls, because after all, those corporations and local gangsters that will benefit from all the pork flowing from the project really know how to get out the vote.

In fine form, the EPA has scheduled three “specialist meetings” in two days (dolphin impact, water resources, health risk assessment) and will conclude the circus with a fourth meeting that is scheduled for the entire day on Friday 11 June. This meeting, the subcommittee charged with screening the case before submission to the plenary EIA committee is chaired by Mr. “Good Intentions” and environmental policy advisor for the Ma-Siew Presidential campaign Professor CHIANG Pen-ji. The committee will be under great pressure to accept the proposal (with conditions of course!) so that a plenary EIA meeting can be held and the government can clear the project by the end of June as promised by VP/EB smiling Vincent.

Please come and join members of Taiwan’s “sustainable economics” community stage a demonstration in front of the EPA on 9 June 2010 as the “experts” prepare to listen to a representative from the Industrial Development Bureau tell us how they are making Taiwan safe for the future. There will be something worth photographing during the demonstration.

For more details contact: John Tsai 0919-589513

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Losing touch with the natural

Savanna Nightjar (Caprimulgus affinis): photo courtesy of Richard Yu.

In an article in today's Taipei Times I noticed a few lines that got me thinking. Strangely, they had been tacked onto the end of an article where they really didn't seem to fit with the theme of the article. The article is titled Chen Chu calls for increased campus security. Chen Chu (³¯µâ) is the mayor of Kaohsiung and the article is about how the city's Education Bureau had overlooked the importance of resolving the problem of bullying on campuses.

These few lines tacked onto the end of the article got me thinking: "In other news, the city's Economic Development Bureau urged residents of Dapingding (¤j©W³») to learn to live in harmony with the Caprimulgus affinis [Savanna Nightjar] after residents complained about the noise made by the birds.

Bureau director-general Liu Hsin-cheng (¼BÄÉ¥¿) said an increasing number of the rare birds, commonly known as the Savanna Nightjar, had migrated to urban areas in recent years.

Many Siaogang District (¤p´ä) residents had complained about having difficulty sleeping because of the constant chirping made by the birds during the mating season, Liu said.

Saying that the mating season would last through August, Liu urged residents to strike a balance between their lives and protection of the birds.

Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis is a common nocturnal bird found on Taiwan's lowlands. Savanna Nightjar isn't rare as the article claims it is. Over the past decade, Savanna Nightjar have taken to roosting on the roofs of houses in urban areas and their high-pitched twee-it call is a common night sound in most towns and cities along Taiwan's western lowlands. For some reason the call of the Savanna Nightjar seems to disturb many people.

My old copy of Lonely Planet: Taiwan makes a point about the noisy nature of Taiwanese society: "Renao-It's hard to translate into English, but renao means something like 'lively', 'festive', 'happy' and 'noisy' - especially 'noisy'. Many Taiwanese seem immune to noise. You'll notice that department stores and restaurants have background music blaring at around 100 decibels. This is used to attract customers..." Indeed Taiwan is very noisy. Firecrackers going off at all hours. Countless KTVs. Fleets of noisy little blue vans with loudspeakers advertising wares or the virtues of political candidates at any time or place. Cages of roosters announcing the dawn. With all this constant din and racket it's amazing that the natural call of a wild bird provokes such an outcry. It seems that for many they have so lost touch with natural sound that when they hear it it sounds strange and out of place. Surely the call of the Savanna Nightjar is nothing like the deafening din of firecrackers and loudspeakers. Have KTVs, loudspeakers and firecrackers become so natural to us that we don't even hear the noise? Perhaps this is why we sit back and destroy areas of natural beauty like the Huben-Hushan forests. Forests are alien to us. Concrete isn't. So really, who needs to change?...and Oh, Savanna Nightjars live in Hushan, too.

Click to listen to a Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis call.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The onslaught continues

A Huben stream hemmed in with walls of concrete after the valley walls had been bull-dosed.

The concrete onslaught in the Huben-Hushan Important Bird Area (IBA) continues. More streams in the Huben-Hushan IBA have been hemmed in with walls of concrete. The concreting of streams in the name of so-called anti-erosion work has a long history in modern-era Taiwan. Considerable sums of money are made available by the government for anti-erosion work. It is known that unscrupulous construction contractors and local residents and officials will often cooperate to hatch schemes to get streams "fixed" and profits from the projects are then split. If this is the case in Huben we can't say. However, the powers-that-be seem set on concreting in the local streams. Other construction in the area has been the widening and repair of the track behind the temple into what is now a road. Despite the arrival of the Fairy Pitta the use of herbicide around the construction area in known Fairy Pitta nesting areas is clearly visible.

We have also learned of an alleged case of the deliberate destruction of a known Fairy Pitta breeding area. Some areas of within the Huben-Hushan IBA are owned by investors from out of town. These land owners apparently bought land from the Forestry Bureau in the late 1980s - early 1990s when some of the area was sold off by the government. This was before Taiwan's first democratic elections in 1996 and many such sales dating from the period are known to have been made with a lack of transparency and supervision. It would appear that some landowners have wanted to use their land for gravel extraction but have been prevented from doing so because of the ban on gravel extraction within the area partly because of the presence of the Fairy Pitta and other protected wildlife and partly because of the risk of landslides resulting from gravel extraction.

Allegedly, one such landowner brought in earth moving equipment into a remote Huben valley which he owns and proceeded to destroy the valley by bull-dosing it and then asking the authorities to reclassify his land as no Fairy Pitta are present. It is also alleged that firecrackers were used repeatedly to scare away Fairy Pitta. We believe that the county Environmental Protection Administration is investigating.

The stream behind the dairy farm is amongst the latest batch of streams to be targeted.

The right bank of the stream behind the temple has now been hemmed in with concrete. The valley was originally bull-dosed in 2007. In 2009 the left bank was concreted and the right bank was done recently.

The river running through the village. Photo taken from the road outside the Fairy Pitta Cafe.

The widening of the road behind the temple.

Evidence of the use of herbicide during the construction.

Evidence of the use of herbicide during the construction.

The bull-dosed valley that is being investigated by the authorities.

The bull-dosed valley that is being investigated by the authorities.

The bull-dosed valley that is being investigated by the authorities.

Friday, April 30, 2010

APGN 2010 kicks off in Taipei today

The Asia Pacific Green Network Congress 2010 (APGN 2010) kicks off in Taipei this morning. The theme of this year's congress is a Fair Share For A Green Future. The congress is being held from April 30 - May 2at the Tien-Mou Convention Convention Center, located in the northern district of Shi-lin, Taipei. Our colleagues at Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association will be attending the congress.

For details on APGN 2010 click here.

Pink Dolphins at the Urban Nomad Film Fest 2010

The construction of the Hushan Reservoir will have a direct impact on Taiwan's critically endangered Pink Dolphins. The reduced flow of fresh water into the Jhoushui River estuary will further degrade habitat critical to the survival of these dolphins that are on the very brink of extinction. Water from the reservoir will largely be used to develop heavy industry within the little remaining dolphin habitat.

Tonight sees the start of the annual Urban Nomad Film Festival in Taipei. Urban Nomad 2010 kicks off tonight at Armed Forces Cultural Center in Taipei with the Taiwanese premiere of Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove. The Cove will be shown back-to-back with Taiwan's Critically Endangered Pink Dolphins, a short documentary by Christina MacFarquhar of Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association explaining the plight of Taiwan's Pink Dolphins.

Urban Nomad 2010 is working with organizations that want to protect the dolphins and the seas. Both Matsu’s Fish Conservation Union and Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association will be at the gala premiere tonight.

What: The Cove/Taiwan's Critically Endangered Pink Dolphins

When: 7:30pm Friday, April 30, 2010

Where: Armed Forces Cultural Center (°ê?x¤åÃÀ¬¡°Ê¤¤¤ß), 69 Zhonghua Rd, Sec 1, Taipei (¥x¥_¥«¤¤µØ¸ô¤@¬q69¸¹).

Also see today's Taipei Times: Urban Nomad settles in

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Policy of Ignoring Wake Up Calls and Unanswered Questions?

I'm sure the 'powers that be' in Taiwan do know where Taiwan is situated. The Pacific Rim, that big ring of fire. It's a well know fact that Taiwan is geologically unstable. Just yesterday morning we all felt the shaking of a 6.6 quake off southeast Taiwan. Shakes and quakes are common here. Today there was a 4.1 in Taitung. Yesterday we had that big 6.6 and the day before we had a 4.7 and a 4.4 on the east coast. The big 7.6 921 Earthquake was just ten years ago.

In addition to the earthquakes we get several typhoons each summer. Last summer Typhoon Morakot left over 600 fatalities in its wake. Poor land management policies contributed greatly to many of the landslides that buried entire villages. Typhoons and quakes are a pretty deadly pair. Surely we know by now that we don't have a very good track record of trying to "manage" nature.

On Sunday afternoon Taiwan's natural fury once again demonstrated what she thinks of our human efforts to tame her. An entire hillside rolled across the No.3 National Freeway between Taipei and Keelung. The entire freeway is closed. This was no small landslide. The entire hillside went 'walkabout' and repositioned itself right across the freeway. Don't take my word for it. Take a look at the Taipei Times photo.

Now, let's move down to central-west Taiwan. Right near the little town of Jiji, the epicentre of the big 7.6 921 Earthquake, the 'powers that be' are merrily constructing the Hushan Reservoir. Yeah, I know you've read the posts on our blog about how the Hushan Reservoir has destroyed much of the most important breeding area on the planet for the threatened Fairy Pitta and a host of other endangered and supposedly protected Red List species that have lived there for time eternal. OK, enough about birds and back to the story.

We're building a big reservoir in the middle of an area highly prone to earthquakes and typhoons. Is that wise? I mean this dam is sitting just off the notorious Jiji fault that showed what it can do in a big 7.6 rumba ten years ago. The 'powers that be' are saying have no fear. But should we? Could there be problems with the mighty Hushan Dam?

Well, we asked the former commissioner of the Environmental Impact Assessment Committee (EIA) who chaired a series of meetings on proposed changes to the Hushan Reservoir plan what he thought about questions on the reservoir's stability. He told us that he with other commissioners ordered the cessation of the project until questions such as this, and the many others that had never been fully or accurately answered during the course of the initial review, were answered. He went on to tell us that the response to their order by officials of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) was to tell the developer to ignore the commissioners (despite the fact that the EPA is the secretariat to the commission) and go ahead and build the dam.

Scary to say the least. Can Taiwan really get by on a policy of ignoring wake up calls and unanswered questions and damning the consequences if a quick dollar can be made? Time will surely tell. If I was a betting man my money would be on "they can't !"

Huge hillside collapses, covers Formosa Freeway
Workers scramble to dig out landslide

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hooded Pitta:- a first for Taiwan

On Wednesday 21 April 2010 a Hooded Pitta (Pitta sordida) was sighted in coastal vegetation in the Chigu area of Tainan County. Chigu is the famous wintering site for the threatened Black-faced Spoonbill. The Chigu area is a well known migrant trap in southwest Taiwan. Taiwan's first confirmed record of a Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis) was made in the same area last spring. This Hooded Pitta is the first record of the species in Taiwan. This Hooded Pitta appears to be of the Philippine race sordida. Hooded Pitta of race cucullata have been recorded as accidental in Japan. The Taiwan bird clearly lacks the chestnut-brown nape of race cucullata. In addition, the Taiwan bird has the broader upper belly black patch typical of race sordida. Race cucullata has a narrower black "patch" on the belly. Although race sordida is regarded as a resident race rather than migratory, birds of race sordida banded in northern Luzon have been recaptured in peninsula Malaysia.

Click to view photos of this Hooded Pitta on the Nature Campus website. Comments on the Nature Campus website are in Mandarin Chinese.

First Sighting of the Season

Huben Fairy Pitta (Pitta nympha): photo courtesy of Richard Yu.

On the morning of Thursday 22 April 2010 we made the first Huben Fairy Pitta sighting of the season. A pitta was calling from the forest behind the temple at about 7am. As we neared the location we could hear the pitta was moving away from us. A second pitta then started calling from the Pillow Hill side of the valley. We followed the sound of the calling and were able to observe the pitta in the forest edge at the base of Pillow Hill.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

They're Back !

A Huben Fairy Pitta (Pitta nympha): photo courtesy of Richard Yu.

They're back ! We received word this morning that a Fairy Pitta was heard calling this morning near the Fairy Pitta Cafe in Huben. Other sightings of Fairy Pitta were made in Taichung County over the weekend. Monitoring of this breeding season will begin. The first international visiting birder of the season is arriving in Huben tomorrow.

Also see:
April marks the return of the Fairy Pitta

Monday, April 12, 2010

Yet another stream gone

If you follow the road (Route 149) that leads into the mountains from the Hushan Dam inlet pipe on the Chingshui River just above Tongtou village (Nantou County) for a few kilometres towards Tsaoling village (Yunlin County) you'll come to what was a pretty little stream with a suspension bridge. This was a lovely spot to stop on the way to Tsaoling and spend some time exploring a lovely mountain stream. Plumbeous Water Redstarts and Grey Wagtails would dart among the rocks. It was a good stakeout point to get a view of the elusive endemic Taiwan Whistling Thrush. On a quite early morning stroll there was always the chance of meeting a majestic Swinhoe's Pheasant. However, the stream as it was for millennia, is no more. Like countless other Taiwan mountain streams it has fallen victim to whims of the powers-that-be that seem hellbent on covering every little brook and creek in lifeless concrete. They say it's to stop erosion. I can't help but notice that tends to be when the erosion problems start and the constant failings of these so-called erosion remedies seems to keep provide some happy local contractor with a never ending supply of maintenance and repair work.

This is yet another prime example of good habitat being destroyed for no apparent reason. This area is the mountain area adjoining the Huben-Hushan IBA. Destruction of mountain riverine habitat above the Huben-Hushan IBA can only accelerate the horrendous ongoing degradation of this area we have witnessed over the past decade.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

April marks the return of the Fairy Pitta

A Huben Fairy Pitta (Pitta nympha): photo courtesy of Richard Yu.

The Lunar New Year has come and gone and the Grey-faced Buzzards and Chinese Sparrowhawks are flying through the Baguashan area to the northwest of Huben on their migration to their northern breeding grounds. Waves of Purple Crow butterflies have moved through Huben on their way to northern Taiwan and with the see-sawing of hot-sunny and cold-wet conditions over the past three weeks you may still be able to view a few waves of this wondrous Huben spectacle.

April is always marks the return of Huben's most famous summer residents, the dazzling Fairy Pitta. The earliest arrival record to date is about April 12 so only about another two weeks to go. Every year the usual flood of enquiries about seeing the Fairy Pitta washes in around March and this year has been no exception. The special Fairy Pitta viewing area which was started last season will once again be open.

On a more sobering note, it is expected that this year's Fairy Pitta census will once again follow its tragic downward spiral as habitat within the Huben-Hushan IBA continues to vanish at an alarming rate. But as in previous seasons we'll be posting the news and we look forward to hearing the calls of the Fairy Pitta echoing through the Huben forests once again this least.

They're Back !

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Indian Black Eagle observed over Huben

Indian Black Eagle: Photo courtesy of Richard Yu.

On Friday 12 March, researchers from the Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute observed an Indian Black Eagle Ictinaetus malayensis over the forests adjacent to Huben village. This is the second record of Black Eagle in the Huben-Hushan IBA. The first Huben-Hushan IBA record of a Black Eagle was recorded on 23 September 2009. In Taiwan the Indian Black Eagle is listed as Vulnerable and the total population is believed to be between 500-1000 individuals.

Huben-Hushan Bird List

Also see:
Resident Black Eagle in Huben ! Wonderful development or should we be asking why?

Friday, February 26, 2010

A First for Taiwan: Supreme Administrative Court Upholds Decision to Void Central Science Park EIA – Farmers, Lawyers & Social Groups Petition

With the Lunar New Year break we missed some of what has been happening on the green front this month. Below is a press release from the Taiwan Environmental Action Network and Green Party Taiwan earlier this month. As the press release explains, the Supreme Administrative Court upheld the decision to void the Central Science Park EIA but true to form, the EPA have just forged ahead and done what they always do...gone rogue.

Press Conference on 4 February 2010

A First for Taiwan: Supreme Administrative Court Upholds Decision to Void Central Science Park EIA – Farmers, Lawyers Associations, Social Groups Petition Control Yuan to Investigate EPA Officials’ Misconduct, Demand Minister’s Resignation

On 22 January 2010 Taiwan’s Supreme Administrative Court rocked Taiwan’s Executive by upholding a lower court’s ruling that the environmental impact assessment approval issued by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) for a major high-tech industry construction project was void. The decision strikes a blow against one of Taiwan’s sacred cows, the expansion and development of what are euphemistically called “science parks.”

However, despite the decision, and in an extension of its nearly four year epic of ignoring calls from farmers, academics, environmentalists and the courts, the EPA seems to have “gone rogue”; instead of looking at the issues on which the courts based their decisions, public health threats for example, the EPA has engaged in what appears to be a drug-induced orgy of self denial, legal fantasy and political blame shifting, prompting some observers to ask, “what are they smoking down there on Chunghua Road?”

A number of social advocacy groups will be holding several activities tomorrow (Feb. 4, 2010):

At 1030 am Gathering in front of Executive Yuanà Marching to Control Yuan #2 Sec. 1 Chung Hsiao East Road, Taipei, representatives the farmers of Taichung that brought the action against the EPA, former commissioners, and lawyers and law scholars will speak to the press and public before delivering a petition to the Control Yuan requesting an immediate investigation into 1) illegalities and negligence of officials within the EPA and commissioners involved with the Central Science Park/Third Phase/Cising Site environmental impact assessment, and 2) what the groups allege is the extremely creative but seriously flawed interpretations of law that the EPA has conjured up to avoid ordering the immediate cessation of the development project in accordance with the Environmental Impact Assessment Act.

Speakers will include: Lawyer for the plaintiffs LIN, San-chia; representatives from the plaintiffs, a group of six farmers from Hou-li Taichung; Dr. CHOU, Chin-cheng and Dr. Gloria Hsu, both professors at Taiwan’s leading university, and both of whom were serving as commissioners at the time the project passed; representatives from the Judicial Reform Foundation and the recently-formed Environmental Jurists Association.

1330 “EPA, are you illiterate or just numb?”, will be held in front of the Environmental Protection Administration, 83, Zhonghua Rd. Sec. 1, Zhongzheng District, Taipei.

Whereas the plaintiffs and civic groups have faith in the ability of the Control Yuan to make a fair and full investigation, they have been appalled at the actions and statements of the EPA.

The EPA has showed contempt for the judiciary, engaged in outrageous abuses of authority such that the people affected by the negligence, arrogance and “screw you” attitudes of EPA officials have really had enough, and want to vent their anger and frustration at the EPA and EPA officials, in particular the Minister Steven Shen, who is believed to routinely stay up late at night crafting responses to negative press reports and answering accusations from the public.

The groups are demanding: 1. Within three days the EPA shall order all work stop on the Central Science Park development in accordance with the law and decisions of the courts; and 2. Since it is now eminently clear that Minister Shen is incompetent to such an extent – his handling of this case as well as the fourth phase Central Science Park being but two examples in a long history of “environmental poaching” –ignoring the health and environmental safety of the people -, he must immediately step down.

All reporters are welcome


Taiwan Environmental Action Network, Kathy LEE 0973350972

Green Party Taiwan, PAN Han-sheng 0935295815

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Convenient Route?

Here in Taiwan it’s our first week back at work after the Lunar New Year break. Oh, I’ve forgotten my manners. Xin Nian Kuai Le! to you all and all the best for the Year of the Golden Tiger. Now, with the New Year wishes out the way let’s get back to going back to work and the Convenient Route. That word ‘route’ needs to be said in the British way, as in ‘root.’ Yeah, I know that’s rather weak but hey it’s my first day back on the job.

Officials, executives watch premiere of climate change film

That’s what the Taipei Times tells us all the government big wigs and top business executives where doing on their first day back at work. That sounds promising. Is change afoot? Something happen over the New Year? Did the Ghost of Environments Past pay the heads of the five branches of government a late night visit? Is EPA Minister Shen Shu-hung pulling an Ebenezer Scrooge? Well, whatever happened this does seem like a good way for the 'powers that be' to start the new year…or so I thought.

I read the opening sentence. “The heads of the nation's five branches of government, as well as top business executives, were invited to watch the premiere of '±2°C', a documentary on climate change in Taiwan, at the Butterfly Pavilion in Taipei last night.” So far so good! Let’s read on. “TV commentator Sisy Chen, the producer of the film,…Sisy Chen and climate change!!! What? You’ve got to be kidding me! Slippery talk show host and sometimes bench-crossing politician Sisy Chen doing something on climate change? Yes, Sisy Chen has made a documentary on climate change. My first thought was Sisy Chen is trying to reinvent herself as Taiwan’s Al Gore. I started to read a little further and there it was in black and white. “Chen said she had seen several documentaries on climate change, including An Inconvenient Truth by former US vice president Al Gore…

People can change. Perhaps I’ve got it wrong. Maybe Sisy’s seen the light. Perhaps she watched Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and while she was sleeping that night the Ghost of Environments Future came to her. Well, if she’s for real, whatever it was, “You go girl!”

I’ve not seen her documentary so can’t honestly comment on it. However, Sisy’s slippery reputation is well known so I can't help being suspicious. It’s going to take some doing to rid herself of that "she'll say anything as long as the money's right" reputation she has. Speaking to some folks who have seen her documentary I’ve been told that there are some errors in it and that it appeared as nothing but a greenwashing gimmick to them. So does this mean Sisy has jumped on the green bandwagon to revive her political fortunes and taken a new convenient route back into the limelight as Taiwan's new green queen? If this is the case, time will tell. But for now, let’s give Sisy the benefit of the doubt.

Sisy, if you’re for real. How about taking a stand? How about speaking out against all that west coast “development”? You know. The projects that are going to cause considerable increases to Taiwan’s already shocking emission levels and make the Taiwan pink dolphins go extinct...the Kuokuang Petrochemical project and all the other developments in Mailiao with Formosa where the cancer rate is already six times the national average. Also, the new TaiPower power plant, and the Erlin development of the Central Taiwan Science Park. How about it Sisy? How about making a real stand for the environment ?

Taipei Times: Officials, executives watch premiere of climate change film

Also see:
Fatalities of the Limelight III: Sisy Chen, Hired Gun for Sale or Rent

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Canary in the mine shaft, another rosy tale.

Typhoon Morakot: Houses buried under landslide and flood debris in central Taiwan.

On the 13Th December 2009 the Miami Herald ran a piece by Joe Oglesby titled Canary in the mine shaft which really typified the type of rosy picture the Ma-led KMT regime likes to paint of Taiwan and its commitment to global warming, the tragedy of Typhoon Morakot and other environmental issues.

Robin Winkler, a Taipei-based lawyer and former Commissioner on Taiwan’s Environmental Impact Assessment Committee wrote a response to the Miami Herald's piece. Regrettably they didn't publish his letter. We've decided to post Robin's letter with a link to the Miami Herald article and readers can decide for themselves if Joe Oglesby and the Miami Herald are giving a misleading view of what's happening in Taiwan.

Joe Oglesby (Canary in the mine shaft, 13 Dec.) and hence your readers have been misled by the Taiwanese government about its supposed commitment to do something about global warming.

While I served as a Commissioner (2005-2007) on Taiwan’s Environmental Impact Assessment Committee, the Committee approved projects that had been proposed by developers that will increase Taiwan’s CO2 emissions by 43%. All of those projects were screened, and in many cases proposed by government agencies. This against the background of Taiwan having several of the largest and dirtiest coal fired power plants, our having been ranked number 145 out of 146 in the World Economic Forum’s 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index and our distinction of being the fastest growing greenhouse gas emitter among developed countries for the period since 1990.

The current government of president Ma Ying-jeou has continued to support and fund these projects while proposing many new ones such as the recently approved fourth stage expansion of the Central Taiwan Science Park, a major expansion of the Formosa Plastics Off-shore Petrochemical facility in central Taiwan and a mega “petrochemical science park” that will go in over tidal flats, wetlands and is to be located just across the Chuoshui River from the Formosa Plastics project.

The energy intensive expansion of the Central Taiwan Science Park for example, half of which will be use to site production facilities for TFT-LCD manufacturer AU Optronics on prime farmland, will drain 160,000 tons of wastewater daily into nearby estuaries that are home to Taiwan’s critically endangered population of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis). Mr. Ma’s concern for Taiwan’s wildlife is highly selective at best.

While I have no doubt that Mr. Oglesby is a journalist of the highest ethical standards, the fact remains that he visited Taiwan on a junket funded by the Taiwan’s Government Information Office. Naturally, the information presented to the non-Chinese speaking journalists on the trip was selective and intended to ensure that the Taiwanese government’s message that Taiwan is doing its part in the fight against global warming would reach readers like those of the Miami Herald.

Studies by international organizations conclude otherwise. Between 2006 and 2008, Taiwan slid sixteen places in the World Economic Forum’s Environmental Performance Index. Even more recently, Taiwan fell from No. 32 to No. 47 on Germanwatch’s 2010 Climate Change Performance Index much to the chagrin of the Ma administration, which is resorting to the old politician’s trick of blaming the former administration. As in the United States, there are bitter political divisions between Taiwan’s two main political parties but the truth is that both share responsibility for the state-backed short term economic development policies that are degrading Taiwan’s environment and driving its rising carbon emissions.

As for Taiwan’s “good track record” on monitoring landslides, Mr. Oglesby has failed to report that although the government does indeed gather vast amounts of information about geologically sensitive areas, it is very difficult for members of the public to get access to this information because of pressure from land developers and other interest groups who do not want to see property prices depressed. In any event, that information and the “hundreds of environmental laws” passed by Taiwan’s legislature (in fact there are only 12) did nothing to save the more than 600 people, most of who were Plains Aborigines, who died when Typhoon Morakot triggered the mudslide that wiped out their village.

Taiwan talks the talk on climate change, but it does not walk the walk.

Robin Winkler

Robin Winkler is the founder and director of the Wild at Heart Legal Defense fund. Born and raised in the US, he has resided in Taiwan since 1977 and became a citizen in 2003 to prevent deportation for his environmental activism.

Also see:
The proof of the pudding is in the eating: The Chingshuei River after Morakot (includes photos).

Typhoon Morakot: The Writing's on the Wall

Air quality worsens from Typhoon Morakot's dust

Eurasian Sparrowhawk: New Bird for the Huben-Hushan IBA Bird List

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus): photo by Meneer Zjeroen through Wikimedia Commons.

During December 2009 a record of a Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) seen by Mr. Wu Jien-long in the Huben-Hushan IBA on 6th March 2009 came to light. The claimed sighting was investigated by Dr. Scott Lin and was confirmed and the record has been added to the Huben-Hushan IBA bird list bringing the number of bird species recorded in the Huben-Hushan Important Bird Area to 123.

Huben-Hushan Bird List