Fri, Sep 03, 2010 - Page 8 News List

Learning the lessons of Mailiao for Dacheng

By Lin Hong-jung 林鴻榮

Before he passed away, former Yilan County commissioner Chen Ding-nan (陳定南) told Formosa Plastics Group that Yilan did not want the petrochemical industry there because it was highly dangerous and would pollute the environment. These remarks made many residents question the future of Yilan. However, without the petrochemical industry, Yilan has relied on its natural resources and become internationally known for its annual Children’s Folklore and Folkgame Festival.

Now, a similar situation is happening on the banks of the Jhuoshui River (濁水溪.) More than a decade ago, Yunlin County welcomed Formosa Plastics Group into Mailiao Township (麥寮) and the county government guaranteed local residents this would make the area prosper. However, this was soon proved wrong by endless industrial safety accidents, environmental pollution, losses incurred by farmers and fishermen, large numbers of residents leaving the area and local residents getting cancer.

After Kaohsiung residents kicked out Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co from their city, the company become interested in the beautiful intertidal zone of Dacheng Township (大城) in Changhua County. The company started using slogans about increasing local prosperity, local population and consumption to trick local residents and cover up the damage that a petrochemical plant could have on the local environment. These slogans are very similar to the ones used by Formosa Plastics Group before it built the sixth naphtha cracker plant in Mailiao Township.

Dacheng is also located at the mouth of Jhuoshui River. It is a poor rural town that the petrochemical industry now has its eyes on. Petrochemical companies could not care less about whether this area is home to the humpback dolphin or the beautiful ecology of the intertidal zone. Nor do they care about Wanggong Township (王�?ysters, the focal point each year of the Wanggong festival. Nor do they care about the livelihoods of fish farmers and the elderly who have lived there generation after generation by gathering oysters after the tidewaters recede every day.

After the 921 earthquake rocked Taiwan, researchers issued a warning to towns in areas suffering from serious ground subsidence, saying that ground water functions as a super shock absorber and that it can help absorb the energy released by an earthquake and minimize the damage.

Changhua County lacks water resources and ground water is needed to meet the demands of daily life, farming and fishing. A large part of Jhuoshui River has been redirected at Jiji for use by the sixth naphtha cracker and farmers along the river have no choice but to take even more ground water for irrigation uses. The government plans another barrage in the upper parts of the Dadu River (大度) to provide the Kuokuang petrochemical plant with water for its daily use.

This means farmers along the river will have to dig even deeper wells to get water for irrigation. If one day a major earthquake were to happen along the west coast, after having lost all the natural protection offered by the ground water, Changhua would be in a terrible state.

The past suffering of Mailiao residents cannot be erased, but the fate of Dacheng residents can still be changed. Once land and habitats are lost, they can never be regained. We would be looking forward to a much brighter future if we could manage to preserve the natural beauty and purity of Dacheng.

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