Friday, August 31, 2007

More offshore wind farms

The offshore wind farm threat to Taiwan’s Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins Sousa chinensis looks set to increase with the planning of a number wind farms within their existing habitat. Despite the obvious fact that the construction of wind farms will result in loss of habitat for the already struggling population of Taiwan’s Humpback dolphins, one also has to consider what other impact the construction of these proposed offshore wind farms will have on the Humpback dolphins.

See yesterday's China Post's article The Ministry of Economic Affairs to open offshore wind turbines

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

Friday, August 24, 2007

The EPA's "Green" Initiative

Taipower, Wuchi, Taichung.

Last week Taiwan's Environmental Protection Administration's (EPA) announced that Taiwan plans to present a "green" initiative at next month's APEC forum. See today's Taipei Times editorial, EPA announcement full of hot air. Yes, this is really laughable.

Also see:
The Cost of Taiwan's Development
The seventh Environmental Impact Assessment Committee of Great Concern to Environmentalists
Questions of water conservation

Thursday, August 23, 2007

An Identification Guide to the Dolphins and Small Cetaceans of Taiwan

Taiwan now has a bilingual (English/Chinese) field guide to its small cetaceans. John Y. Wang and Shih-Chu Yang of FormosaCetus Research and Conservation Group have come to the rescue of Taiwan dolphin watchers and produced a field guide of exceptional quality titled An Identification Guide to the Dolphins and other small Cetaceans of Taiwan.

The forward is by IUCN/SSC Cetacean Specialist Group Chair Randall Reeves (Ph.D.). Well known US based marine mammal scientist William F. Perrin (Ph.D.) had this to say about the guide, "This masterfully written and profusely illustrated guide to the cetaceans of Taiwan will allow everyone to identify what they might encounter at sea or find on the beach. It is designed to serve the novice, the general biologist, and the expert. The postscript is packed with good advice on how to advance the science of cetology in Taiwan, where so many people depend on the ocean and marine resources. And a strong caution is sounded; if nothing is done, and soon, the remaining dolphins, porpoises and small whales may be lost to the region, like the large whales before them. This is a book that is likely to become a classic."

Not only does the guide serve as an excellent identification tool but it also tackles the issue of cetacean conservation in Taiwan including that of Taiwan's endangered pink dolphins.

Title: An Identification Guide to the Dolphins and other small Cetaceans of Taiwan. Authors: Dr John Y. Wang and Shih-Chu Yang.
Publisher: Jen Jen Publishing Company and National Museum of Marine Biology & Aquarium, Taiwan.
ISBN: 978-986-7112-37-8.

Copies still available from this seller.

Questions of Water Conservation

A recent edition of Taipei Times features an editorial titled Questions of water conservation by Chang Yen-ming, deputy director of the Water Resources Agency. The article has a dig at the 6th Environmental Impact Assessment Committee (EIAC) because they "ordered that the construction of the Hushan Water Reservoir be halted because they didn't accept the environmental research reports" (see: The seventh Environmental Impact Assessment Committee of Great Concern to Environmentalists) but the editorial fails to mention that this order has been ignored and it also fails to go into the reasons as to why EIAC didn't accept the environmental research reports. Sadly, it seems as if this editorial is just another unjustified jibe at environmentalists pushing for more responsible usage of Taiwan's water resources.

About ten days after this feature the Vice minister of Economic Affairs was detained for bribery concerning bid-rigging on water related construction projects. Taiwan Water Corp vice president Yang Shui-yuan and Chang Yi-min, director of the Water Resources Agency's second river management office are also suspected of involvement in the bid-rigging on water related construction projects.

The following letter is a draft of a letter that some Taiwanese students have sent to various newspapers and websites. We are not aware of the letter having been published but it may well have. The views expressed on cutting diplomatic ties in the letter are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NTCAHD and this blog. The figures contained in this letter reflect the shocking reality of the present CO2 emissions situation in Taiwan and why we don't need to increase heavy emission generating industry in Taiwan. The responsible thing to do is to reduce these present emission levels, not increase them. How responsible is the building of a dam that's function is to supply water to more industry that will increase Taiwan's CO2 emissions dramatically and destroy much of what little remains of western lowland natural Taiwan?

Open Letter on Global Warming to Taiwan’s Pacific Allies

To the Government and People of the Republic of Kiribati; Republic of the Marshall Islands; Republic of Nauru; Republic of Palau; Solomon Islands; and Tuvalu.

Dear Friends,

We sincerely thank your representatives for their visit to Taiwan. We believe that their visit on July 27th shows your concern and interest in Taiwan's progress in the struggle against global warming. We believe that Taiwan, as a member of the global community, is obliged to carry out and advise its close friends to adopt environmentally sound policies. Although the Minister of Taiwan's Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), Dr. Winston Dang, has shared with you his department’s successful experience in waste management, and may appear to have solved your technical problems; you must understand that Taiwan's environment has always been sacrificed for development and priority has been given to highly contaminating heavy industry. This does not, of course, correspond with the EPA minister's claims that Taiwan is a victim of global warming. Although the international consensus discourages the proliferation of contaminating heavy industries, Taiwan is under no constraint from the UN because it is not a member, nor is it regulated by the Kyoto Protocol. Consequently, the Taiwanese government has invested in industries with high energy and water consumption, violating international agreements.

As of now, Taiwan ranks number three in CO2 emission per capita in the world, only behind the United States and Australia. Its 11.9 tons/per capita emission far exceed the 3.9 world average. According to the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, there has been an 8% annual growth rate in Taiwan's CO2 emission in the past ten years (1995-2005), while the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) only increased by 4%. This violates the Kyoto Protocol's regulation on CO2 emissions. Taiwan's CO2 emissions seem unlikely to decrease in the future. The fact remains that its CO2 emissions have been increasing significantly. Liu Shao Chen of the Research Center for Environmental Changes (RCEC), Academia Sinica, points out that Taiwan's CO2 emission rate is the fastest growing CO2 emission rate in the world, and that the emission rate has increased by 110% in the past 15 years. This is primarily the reason for our disbelief of the Taiwan government’s commitment to combating global warming. Also consider the proposed massive industrial developments that will raise the total emission rate by 40%, making Taiwan the single highest CO2 emission per capita country in the world. It is Taiwan's responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of its friends. However, the Taiwan government's aggressive development of its industry and energy resources places the economic development of particular sectors far above the environmental security of its people and of the peoples of the world.

It is known that if the greenhouse effect causes the sea level to rise, island countries will be the first to suffer. The ocean that millions depend on for a living is now becoming a threat to their homelands. If the Taiwan government continues to disregard your right to a healthy and clean environment, we strongly suggest that you take the necessary protective action. We believe that the maintaining of the conditions of basic living should be the fundamental consideration of any government. Money cannot restore the island's beauty once it is gone. Therefore, we demand that the Taiwanese government provide CO2 pollution reparations for countries that are most affected. We even recommend that you consider cutting relations with the current Taiwan government as a final action to show your disapproval until the issue of global warming is responsibly addressed. Strategically, due to Taiwan's unique political situation, the government of Taiwan may accept conditional negotiation if the consequences of not doing so are severe. No one wishes to push its own country into a grave diplomatic situation in the international community. However, for the welfare of all people, we ask for your interference and action. Please support the Taiwanese people, and help us to make the Taiwan government realize the importance of sustainable living, and the drawbacks of corporate governance, so that it can provide us and its friends with a sustainable and healthy living space.

Tuvalu, one of the 24 countries with diplomatic ties with Taiwan, faces the threat of extinction caused by rising ocean levels. Tuvalu is a country that is only 5 meters above sea level. On November 15, 2006, as a result of rising ocean levels, a number of the habitants of Tuvalu were forced to relocate to New Zealand, becoming the world's first group of environmental refugees.

Clearly, the Taiwan government has not seriously considered the diplomatic consequences of its disregard to responsibly combat global warming and taking actions similar to those taken by other industrialized countries. If the friends of Taiwan suffer under global climate change, Taiwan cannot be exempt from the suffering. The Australia government has refused to accept Tuvalu refugees into the country. The Taiwan government should ask itself: under the same situation, can we promise anything more? If not, we strongly demand that the Taiwanese government reconsider the pollution tax alternative and emission reduction plan to save lives, and to save Taiwan!

EPA Under Fire From Environmentalists on its 20th Birthday

The EPA was again accused by environmental organisations of failing to protect Taiwan's environment.

See Environmental activists give `tumor cake' to EPA in today's Taipei Times.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Cost of Taiwan's Development

Kenting National Park

Taiwan, an island on the Pacific Rim, straddles the Tropic of Cancer. Taiwan is generally not regarded as one of the great birding or naturalist destinations of the Oriental faunal region but it is indeed a birder’s or nature lover’s paradise that is all too often overlooked.

Taiwan is better known as one of Asia’s little dragons. Taiwan’s economic miracle tends to be what people associate Taiwan with. People think of countless toys, gadgets and electronic wares all labeled, “Made in Taiwan.”

Taiwan’s economic growth came at a great cost to Taiwan’s fragile environment. Much of natural Taiwan disappeared in clouds of pollution and storms of development but there are still natural areas left and these areas desperately need protection.

Taiwan, which covers an area of 36,000 square kilometers, may be small (0.025 percent of the total land on earth) but it showcase’s the entire range of climates from tropical to subarctic. This gives rise to an amazingly high level of biodiversity that few places on earth can match.

Taiwan, rising from tropical beaches to the highest mountains in East Asia (Yushan Peak 3952m, with over 200 peaks higher than 3000m), is in many ways a living laboratory housing samples of almost all of Asia’s ecosystems.

Hehuanshan area

“Small but incredibly diverse and beautiful” aptly describes Taiwan’s natural environment. Taiwan boasts over 46, 360 described species of flora and fauna. Ten percent of the world’s marine species are found in the waters around Taiwan. 4,200 species of vascular plants grow in Taiwan which includes an amazing 700 species of ferns.

Taiwan has a very high level of endemism:-25 percent of Taiwan’s 4,200 species of vascular plants, 30 percent of 70 mammal species, 12 percent of 150 freshwater fish species, 60 percent of the 20,000 insect species which includes almost 400 butterfly species, 31 percent of amphibians, and 22 percent of reptiles. Of Taiwan’s approximately 520 recorded bird species 17 are endemic with 67 endemic subspecies.

Because of Taiwan’s small land area, the impact of over exploitation of its natural resources all too often leads to catastrophic results. The exploitation of Taiwan’s forests by the camphor and timber industries has destroyed much of the island’s old growth forests. The uncontrolled hunting of the Formosan sika deer lead to its near extinction by the early part of the twentieth century. This, coupled with post World War II development resulting in the destruction of remaining sika habitat, pushed the species over the brink and by the late 1960s the species became extinct in the wild. Today, a small token population of this once abundant species has been reintroduced to Kenting National Park using “wild turned” domestic stock. Taiwan’s Clouded Leopards haven’t been seen for years and are almost certainly now extinct.

Formosan Sika Deer

Whaling in the waters around Taiwan has resulted in the extermination of the population of humpback whales that once wintered in the waters of southern Taiwan. In fact, large whales haven’t been observed in the waters around Taiwan for more than two decades but whaling records show that humpback, sperm, fin, blue, and sei whales were all taken in these waters during the twentieth century.

It is also known that the dugong was found off the west coast before development destroyed its seagrass habitat. Today, a unique Taiwan population of fewer than a hundred Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins looks likely to follow their recently extinct Yangtze River dolphin cousins over the edge unless something drastic is done to save them. Despite their status as a protected species and their desperately small population size, the Taiwan Government seems willing to deal the death blow through further development of heavy industry along the west coast fueled by water from the controversial Hushan Dam project.

Taiwan Humpback Dolphin Fluke

Taiwan also occupies a prominent position on the East Asian Flyway. Taiwan is the winter home of the threatened Black-faced Spoonbill and Saunders’s Gull. The fall raptor migration through Taiwan’s southern tip is amongst the world’s twenty largest, with figures as high as 50,000 raptors from 26 diurnal raptor species being recorded in a single day at the climax of the fall migration period.

Crested Serpent Eagle

Taiwan has a total of 53 IBAs or Important Bird Areas. For its size, Taiwan has a very high number of IBAs. Only 11 or 21% fall within totally protected areas. 17 IBAs or 32% fall within partially protected areas. That leaves 25 or 47% of Taiwan’s IBAs without any protection. Huben, the summer home of the rare and stunningly beautiful Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha, is one of the IBAs without any protection and much of this IBA’s important habitat is threatened by the construction of the Hushan Dam (422 hectares excluding access roads) . A dam that will supply the water needs to further develop heavy industry on the west coast in a country which ranks number three in the world for per capita CO2 emissions (Taiwan’s 11.9 tons/per capita emission rate far exceeds the 3.9 world average).

Mark Wilkie,
Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Update on the Taiwan Pink Dolphins

Land reclamation work in dolphin habitat, Mailiao Industrial Park, Yunlin County.

Since the writing of the West Coast Industrial Development Leaves Endangered Dolphins Little Breathing Space article there have been a number of developments in the plight of the Taiwan population of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin Sousa chinensis.

First and foremost are the continued research efforts of the FormosaCetus Research and Conservation Group. FormosaCetus have been continuing their research and observation work as per the conclusions reached at the 2004 symposium and workshop on the humpback dolphins of western Taiwan, they have published a superb field guide, An Identification Guide to the Dolphins and Other Small Cetaceans of Taiwan, and they actively participated, through attendance and written submissions, in over a dozen environmental impact assessments of development projects planned for Taiwan’s west coast.

A group of Taiwan NGOs came together in January 2007 to form the “Save the ‘Fish’ of the Sea Goddess Alliance” and individual and organizational members of this alliance have held training sessions for Taiwan humpback dolphin spotting and eco tourism (with an emphasis on staying on the shore where the tourists will have very little if any negative impact on the animals), lobbying for protection, monitoring government development projects, production of pamphlets, advertising, awareness T-shirts, and lectures and other educational efforts. The NGOs have set up websites in Chinese and English.

The Taiwan Cetacean Society has also joined in the efforts to better understand and educate the public about the humpback dolphins, having produced their own educational materials and taken on at least two Council of Agriculture-sponsored research projects.

Six dedicated environmentalists (or as they prefer to refer to themselves, “sustainable economists”) were appointed to serve on the Environmental Impact Assessment Commission of Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration in August 2005. With the help of the research from FormosaCetus, the commissioners were able to bring attention to the plight of the Taiwan humpback dolphins and potential impact to their survival during meetings concerning development projects in Taichung (Taijhong), Changhua (Jhanghua), Yunlin and Chiayi (Jiayi) Counties. The Council of Agriculture is now raising the issue on its own and there are some other signs that the government will pay more attention to ocean ecology.

However, paying attention to and doing the right thing from the perspective of biodiversity, conservation, and a long-term or sustainable economy are two very different matters.

And the signs are not good. Taiwan government officials, developers and even academics seem to think that we can have it all – continued breakneck development and conservation. During the past two years, the same government that touts Taiwan’s biodiversity to the rest of the world and wants to make Taiwan a destination for ecotourism has proposed development projects in Taiwan that would result in a nearly 50% increase in annual CO2 emissions. This is from a country that already has a per capita CO2 footprint three times the world average. As we know, the CO2 emissions are simply the tip of the indicator iceberg. The water and air pollution, land reclamation, water usage and so forth that will accompany the rise in CO2 emissions could well be the death knell for many of Taiwan’s species.

A large portion of these projects are along the west coast right in the heart of the known humpback dolphin habitat. Coal fired power plants, steel plants, industrial parks, commercial ports, offshore wind stations, and undersea cables are but a few of the projects well underway. All of the projects have nearly universal backing from politicians and all the projects are sure to have a major negative impact on the humpback dolphins and other marine life.

In September this year (2007), Taiwan’s National Museum of Marine Biology & Aquarium is holding a four day international workshop in Lukang, central Taiwan, bringing cetacean scientists and conservation experts from around the world to link up with Taiwan NGOs, government officials, and industry representatives to form a consultation committee and come up with an action plan for saving the humpback dolphins of western Taiwan.

The extinction of the Baiji Dolphin from the Yangtze River in China, which was confirmed early this year and which was recirculated in the international press recently, is a grim reminder that the timing of this year’s workshop and the formation of the task force and action plan couldn’t be more critical.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The seventh Environmental Impact Assessment Committee of Great Concern to Environmentalists

The recent appointment of the seventh Environmental Impact Assessment Committee of the EPA has been of great concern to many environmental groups. All five true environmentalists that served on the sixth committee have been replaced by, what many perceive to be, pro development academics and experts who will likely give the nod to a number of controversial projects which up until now have been held up because of environmental concerns. This paints a very bleak future for the Fairy Pitta of Hushan and Taiwan's Humpback Dolphins.

Yesterday, Green Party Taiwan Secretary-General Pan Han-shen held a mock funeral protest outside the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the first sitting of the seventh Environmental Impact Assessment Committee.

See today's Taipei Times article titled Activists say assessments are a sham.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

25% of Hushan Completed

See the latest on the Hushan Dam and the Vice minister of Economic Affairs being detained for bribery concerning bid-rigging on water related construction projects on the Hushan Dam Blog.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

More Pink Dolphin Habitat Lost

Land being reclaimed for industrial development near Mailiao Harbour (2007/8/1). This is being done in an area that pink dolphins have regularly been spotted in. This reclamation project will destroy a large area of pink dolphin habitat. With other development projects along the coast already taking place. Is this going to be the last straw that sends this very small and vulnerable population of dolphins beyond the point of no return on the road to extinction?