Saturday, August 21, 2010

Plans to buy another 800 hectares of wetlands to save pink dolphin habitat and to protect threatened birds and marine life

Taiwan pink dolphin: photo courtesy of FormosaCetus Research & Conservation Group.

The Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, a member of the Matsu's Fish Conservation Union (MFCU) has launched a drive to raise funds to purchase 800 hectares of Dacheng wetland on the Chunghua County coast in an effort to help save this extremely important coastal habitat. The wetlands are vitally important for the survival of the critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphins and also several threatened bird species and marine life. The Dacheng [also spelt Tacheng] wetlands are also listed internationally as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International/IUCN. Dacheng is a very important wintering area for the vulnerable Saunders's Gull (Larus saundersi).

Although Dacheng wetlands on the northern edge of the mouth of Jhuoshuei River are listed as an internationally Important Bird Area [IBA: TW-016] and is well known as an extremely important habitat for the unique Taiwan pink dolphins and many endangered fish and bird species, Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co. plans to build oil refineries in the area.

Mudflats at the Dacheng wetlands. These mudflats and estuarine waters are critical to the survival of the Taiwan pink dolphins and hosts of other wildlife.

In a previous drive 50,000 people signed up to purchase 200 hectares of Dacheng coastal wetlands in an attempt to block the construction of a petrochemical plant in the wetland area. Yesterday, the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union announced the beginning of the second phase of the project; to purchase another 800 hectares.

Environmental groups are still in the process of registering to create a trust fund. However, there are concerns that the government with its openly pro Kuokuang Petrochemical stance may well attempt to scuttle efforts to register the trust fund. The Kuokuang project is part of the 4th-phase-expansion of the Central Taiwan Science Park (CTSP). Last month the Taipei High Administrative Court ruled that construction work at the CTSP's Phase-4 zone in Erlin, Changhua County, had to be stopped until further environmental impact assessments were conducted and approved but the government has defied the ruling of the courts and allowed work to continue.

For more see Activists look to buy another 800 hectares of wetlands in today's Taipei Times.

Also see:
Buy a patch of land, help save a dolphin! - Taiwan NGOs to present 'wet' land trust application to the government this Wednesday (7 July)

Academics against new Kuokuang plant

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

Formosa Plastics on fire again

Taiwan High Administrative Court orders Central Taiwan Science Park to halt all expansion pending a ruling on two lawsuits

The saga of the CTSP Erlin Science Park and the Kuokuang Petrochemical Project

Wu the Kuokuang Petrochemical executive continues to forget he's the Nation's Premier

EPA and NSC appeal High Administrative Court order

Erosion of democracy and freedom Beijing style

Local residents block access to FPG plant

Local residents continue to block access to FPG plant

Government defies the courts with the President's blessing

Isn’t It Time the Legal Community Spoke Up?


Michael Turton said...

What is going to stop the government from condemning your land and taking it via forced purchase once you've spent all your money on it?

TNCAHD said...

Hey Michael,

That would be most unfortunate. I wouldn't put that past them. They may well attempt something. They're more likely to attempt to scuttle the project in the trust registration process and there are signs that they appear to be attempting to. The establishment of 1000 hectares of Dacheng wetland as a habitat reserve would be a great achievement. It would be a major victory in the effort to protect these dolphins and the coastal environment. 1000 hectares alone isn't going to save these dolphins but the loss of that 1000 hectares to so-called development would almost certainly be the final straw for these dolphins and mark the point where they moved beyond the point of no return on the road to extinction. Should we just stop efforts because the government might attempt to seize the land once the protected area is established? That would almost be a form of self censorship. Would you stop blogging because you might offend someone and that someone might decide to take legal action and if that someone just happened to be the Taiwan government? I doubt it. Should we stop fighting for the environment because we might upset the government and their plans? We need to keep at it. The government may well try but would come up against considerable opposition if it attempted to seize the land. Who knows what the outcome and fallout would be but is that reason enough to just not attempt it? I don’t believe so.

The effort to save these dolphins has been a long hard slog. Because of the fear of offending China most major conservation/environmental organizations steer clear of Taiwan so we've had very limited support from international conservation/environmental groups. Despite the lack of this type of international support the government and the petrochemical industry has really been given a run for its money and have come up against considerable opposition in trying to get their projects realized. When the extremely limited resources of those fighting this are taken into consideration it’s almost miraculous how much they’ve been able to achieve and hold up things and disrupt plans. Hardly anyone was talking about pink dolphins three years ago but now they are a regular news feature. In 2006 these dolphins weren’t even included in EIAs. Now the powers that be are having to scheme of ways to mitigate the impact in EIAs. They’re even having to ignore court rulings to get what they want. We’ve seen these dolphins listed as critically endangered by the IUCN in 2008. It was that long ago that the powers that be were questioning these dolphins even existed. These dolphins and what is left of the west coast is worth fighting for and because the powers that be might try to block our efforts it isn’t reason enough to not try do something about it.

Michael Fagan said...

So there's your answer Turton - nothing - but it took him 475 words to *not* say it.

You only get led into strategic culdesacs like this if the premises from which you start are wrong in the first place.

TNCAHD said...

"So there's your answer Turton - nothing - but it took him 475 words to *not* say it.

You only get led into strategic culdesacs like this if the premises from which you start are wrong in the first place."

Hey Michael, and what do you believe we should be doing?

Michael Fagan said...

Changing your priorities for political action.

I do not begrudge anyone acting on values that I don't necessarily share (though I certainly don't wish the dolphins any harm), but your tactics can only work if we first demand the removal of the legal provision for expropriation.

To have even a remote chance of accomplishing that, we should work out a program of direct action to oppose the expropriation of land wherever it may occur on the grounds that this is a direct violation of a universal right to private property - not because of the extinction threat to pink dolphins. The threat to private property, though it is most obvious with land, has far more universal implications and in this way can affect anyone, whereas the threat to dolphins can only motivate a minority of people.

Only if respect for the inviolability of private property can gain popular support can there be a chance of removing the power for expropriation - which would then allow you to save the dolphins using a tactic like this.

Of course, the time scale is such that it may be too late for the dolphins. But it is not too late for the people of Taiwan who are elsewhere under threat of expropriation and it is not too late to save other aspects of the existing ecology.

You need to create political fear of violating private property if you are going to have a chance of success.

TNCAHD said...

Thanks, Michael,

I need to run and can't really comment to the extent that I would like to. I'll get back to it late tonight or tomorrow morning.

The government doesn't seem to be very worried about legality at present so would any change in the legal provisions for expropriation really help?

As we environmentalists or whatever you want to call us have been working side by side with the farmers on the land seizure issue for years so I don't quite understand why you have us down as the bad guys not caring about the rights of the farmers.

Hopefully we'll get a few more folk weighing in on this.

Later !

Michael Fagan said...

Why do I have you down with the bad guys?

Precisely because you have failed to recognize the integrity of the principle of private property (and its necessary ethical corollaries) as the unifying aspect to all such seperate cases.

As I laid it down to one anonymous commenter on my blog, you do not help the farmers by protesting in front of the Presidential Palace or by hiring lawyers. You break the law through direct action and thereby force the government to back down (ceding you the moral grounds of your challenge), or up the ante (raising the political cost to them considerably).

As things stand however, you are not simply acting ineffectively, but in so doing, making the situation worse by exhausting yourselves (and presumably your wallets) and making actually effective confrontation less likely to even happen, let alone succeed.

The initial aim ought to be a large scale public challenge against the legal provision for expropriation. The ramifications of success would be huge and extend far beyond the interests of farmers and dolphins.

TNCAHD said...

Thanks, Michael,
Just had a look at your blog and your comment above. I've got nothing more to say to you.

Michael Fagan said...

Fine, go play with your pink dolphins.