Sunday, November 25, 2007

Taiwan's Pink 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 pink dolphins. Great to see the issue making the papers in other Asian countries.

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 pink 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 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 pink 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

Protesters accuse the EPA of protecting big business

Recent violent events at EPA meetings highlight some worrying incidents in the plight of the Taiwan humpback dolphins vs further industrial development of the Yunlin County coastal area have resulted in accusations that the EPA is protecting big business. Probably the most worrying incident was the apparent assault of former EIA Assessment Committee member and Taipei based lawyer, Robin Winkler, at an EPA meeting when he left the meeting room to get some water. This followed an earlier incident on the floor during the same meeting. The actions by the EPA in the wake of such incidents appear wholly unsatisfactory and there are serious concerns amongst environmentalists that such indifference could be interpreted as a message that violence against environmentalists is acceptable. We would urge the EPA to speak out against these recent events and make a clear statement that violence against environmentalists will not be tolerated.

Also see:

Environmental activists denounce EPA

Second Investigative Hearing into Assault Against Wild at Heart Director at Meeting Involving Humpback Dolphins

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.

A guide to calculating the carbon dioxide debt and payback time for wind farms

A paper on calculating the carbon dioxide debt and payback time for wind farms makes some interesting reading.

Also of interest:
CO2 Emissions Profile of the U.S. Cement Industry
Supplementary memorandum by The British Cement Association

Thursday, November 15, 2007

APEC meeting on the marine environment: time to recognise the value of a dolphin

Effluent flowing into the mouth of the Dadu River, Taichung.

How can coastal industrial development and protection of the coastal environment coexist? This was the one of the main themes addressed at the “8th APEC Roundtable Meeting on the Involvement of the Business/Private Sector in Sustainability of the Marine Environment”, held in Taipei from November 6-8.

A range of presentations by delegates from industry, government and academia highlighted once again the enormous impacts of industrial development on the coastal and marine environment, including a sobering talk by a resident of Tuvalu, an island nation currently experiencing gradual inundation due to the rising sea level. Some contributions also reinforced the call for attention to a few of the threats to Taiwan’s Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins Sousa Chinensis identified at the Second International Workshop on Conservation and Research Needs of Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins, Sousa chinensis, in the Waters of Taiwan, held in Changhua County in September this year. Meanwhile, examples of conservation and pollution prevention and response measures were provided by delegates from Hong Kong, Korea, Canada and the Philippines.

One off-the-cuff remark made during a talk by an official from the Construction and Planning Administration about a possible industrial development in Changhua County hinted at yet another project that bodes ill for Taiwan’s humpback dolphins. The proposal for Dacheng Industrial Park, a controversial project for which virtually no information is publicly available, signals the potential arrival of yet another source of pollution to this area (within the humpback dolphins’ confirmed range) as well as meaning bad news for the Dacheng Wetland (also spelt Tacheng), an internationally recognised Important Bird Area (IBA).

Considerable discussion focused on the conservation of the humpback dolphins and other marine mammals. Citing the UN’s designation of 2007 as the “Year of the Dolphin”, participants included in their recommendations to APEC that whale-watching be promoted, that collaborative scientific research be carried out on the stock of cetaceans and that Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin protected areas be established in the APEC region. These recommendations came directly from some of the conclusions of a symposium held in Taichung City in October, which attempted to address some of the issues affecting Taiwan’s humpback dolphins.

The idea of setting up a protected area in which the humpback dolphins of western Taiwan can be free of human interference is certainly attractive – but is Taiwan in a position to do so effectively? While major parts of the dolphins’ range have now been confirmed by scientists, sightings outside of this range and a lack of data for winter distribution suggest that more information would be needed before the dolphins’ entire range and the importance of particular areas for feeding, breeding, calving and other purposes could be determined. If a marine protected area (MPA) for the dolphins were to exclude an area vital to their survival or one which currently forms a passage between two important areas, or to fail to include a buffer zone large enough to protect against the far-reaching impacts of noise pollution, their effective protection could be severely compromised, while the existence of an MPA might give the dangerous public illusion that sufficient measures were being taken.

What this means is not that protection is impossible or premature. On the contrary, the major threats to Taiwan’s humpback dolphins have already been identified and readdressed by cetacean experts in 2004 and 2007, and the process of reducing or eliminating some or all of these threats could start at once. An end to the pretense in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports that the dolphins do not swim in waters slated for large-scale industrial development; considerable and swift reduction of the impacts of these developments; and the prohibition of the use of gill and trammel nets in the dolphins’ known range – these and other measures identified in 2004 and 2007 are most likely to have direct positive impacts on the dolphins’ chances of survival.

Of course this will not happen without much negotiation and some disagreement, as highlighted by the physical violence which occurred during an EIA meeting in the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) last Thursday, sparked by an argument over whether or not the dolphins swim in the coastal waters near the planned site of Formosa Plastics Group’s (FPG) steel plant, which is located within the confirmed range of the dolphins. The commercial interests of corporations such as FPG, as well as the livelihoods of fishermen and others who use the coastal and upstream areas affecting the dolphins, are indeed all factors that must be addressed by the relevant government agencies and the general public. But they must be addressed quickly, as denial and delay will rob all stakeholders of the chance to agree on a way forward before it is too late.

Finally, a vital element of this process will be a high level of transparency in terms of all information relating to past and present projects and pollution affecting the counties in whose coastal waters the dolphins swim. This applies not only to impacts on the dolphins but also to impacts on the human residents of these counties. Too often, the concealment of the toxicity of effluent (e.g. the TAIC pollution disaster in Tainan) and the composition and concentration of emissions has led (and will continue to lead) to the slow poisoning of unsuspecting local residents. Although possibly better than many other government agencies, the EPA is known neither for its encouragement of public participation nor its timely provision of this type of information. However, if any balance is to be brought to the debate over the need for protection of the dolphins, the link between their health and that of the local people (and all others in Taiwan and abroad who consume food grown or harvested in the soil and water in these areas) must be recognized, and not hidden behind blinkered forecasts of the doom that will befall the Taiwanese people if GDP has to make way for more holistic and honest measures of welfare.

Indeed, it is links such as that between business and its effects on human and “environmental” health and wellbeing, and that between human and other species’ wellbeing, that could lend a meaningful, productive edge to these APEC roundtable meetings. Until serious talk begins on integrating health and other forms of capital (other than financial) into national accounting, protection of the home of the humpback dolphins and other species will continue to be seen as a hindrance, rather than a facilitator, of economic wellbeing in the Asia Pacific Region.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

146 wind turbines in dolphin waters

The inshore waters around Changbin Industrial Park, near Lukang, Changhua County is known humpback dolphin habitat. It is arguably the best site for land based observation and forms critically important habitat for the species. 244 wind turbines are to be erected in the area (23 have already been erected). Of those, 146 will be erected in the shallow inshore waters that are frequented by the dolphins. What effect will the noise from this "green energy" project have on the species? With less than a hundred of these unique dolphins left, will this push them over the edge beyond the point of no return? Isn't green energy about saving our planet? Knowingly creating noise that harms and destroying the habitat of a unique marine mammal species that in all likelihood will result in its extinction doesn't quite fit the green profile, does it?

See Changhua builds turbines in today's Taipei Times.

Also see:
The impact of wind farm construction on the Humpback Dolphins

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, Taiwan humpback dolphin, and other environmental issues.

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

Taiwan's Pink Dolphins in CSI's Whales Alive !

Cetacean Society International's (CSI) October 2007 newsletter, Whales Alive !, features an appeal for help for the Taiwan pink dolphins.

See CSI's newsletter, Whales Alive! (Taiwan's Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins after the Can CITES Survive the Solomon Islands? article)