Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New hope ! High School Protest

The Dacheng wetlands in Changhua; the Kuokuang project plans to reclaim these internationally listed wetlands to build petrochemical factories.

Opposition to the planned Kuokuang Petrochemical development on the Chunghua coast mounts. Earlier this week, the Minister of Economic Affairs said Kuokuang Petrochemical's eighth naphtha cracking project would not proceed unless it passed an environmental impact assessment review and relocating the development project overseas could be an option. Exporting Taiwan's petrochemical industry can't be a good thing but it does show that that a good many people in Taiwan have had enough of the petrochemical industry and all its pollution and destruction of the local environment.

An article in today's Taipei Times caught my eye. The article titled Environmentalists urge protection for Changhua wetland gave no hint of the little gem of hope mentioned in the final paragraph. Protesting against the Kuokuang Petrochemical project that plans to turn the internationally important mudflats and wetlands on the Chunghua coast into reclaimed land to build petrochemical factories has gone on for several years. Today, for example, an ongoing protest vigil begins outside the offices of the Environmental Protection Administration. The Taiwan environmental movement continues to fight tooth and nail to stop the Kuokuang project and save the wetlands which are vitally important habitat to the unique and critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphins and several other threatened species like the Saunders's Gull. However, What really made me take note was this sentence: "Meanwhile, also in Changhua County, more than 100 students at National Changhua High School staged a campus sit-in in protest over the Kuokuang project."

It might seem rather trivial to many of our readers that reside in Western democracies that a hundred high school students staged a sit-in. What's the big deal? The big deal is this type of thing almost never happens in Taiwan schools, let alone Taiwan universities. The education system in Taiwan sadly still has a long way to go before it truly shakes off the shackles of the country's authoritarian past. Military personnel on high school campuses are a common sight at just about every high school in the country. They are their to help with discipline and guidance. Any form of protest is usually put down with an attitude of students should spend all their time at their studies and not involve themselves in any form of protest; even while in their 3rd and 4th years at university; when most are old enough to vote.

It is truly encouraging to see high school students take a stand against something that will impact very negatively on their futures and generations to come. A very big hand for those students at National Changhua High School for their brave effort. Hopefully this is an indication that the youth of Taiwan have had enough of the greed, pollution and destruction that characterises the petrochemical industry in Taiwan and are starting to take a stand.

Note: the Dacheng Wetlands are listed internationally as an important bird area or IBA.

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