Thu, Jan 09, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Effects of new bureau on nation’s woodlands

By Chou Chang-hung 周昌弘

In recent years, government ministries have been reorganized several times. The idea was that restructuring the Executive Yuan would cut the number of ministries and improve administration.

However, these expectations have not been met. Instead, restructuring has resulted in ministries growing bigger, with “bureaus” being upgraded to “administrations” and new departments being added, resulting in increased expenditure by the national treasury.

An example of how things can go wrong is that, since the Ministry of Health and Welfare was established in July last year, there has been a succession of food safety problems that have caused widespread resentment and serious concern about the lack of food safety in Taiwan. It is highly questionable whether bureaucratic adjustments of this kind can yield their expected results.

There has also been a lot of discussion about whether, as the planned reorganization of ministries goes ahead, the nation’s forests will fall under the domain of the future ministry of agriculture and forestry or the ministry of environment and resources.

Forests are regarded as a national resource. Up until now, most forests have been managed by the Council of Agriculture’s Forestry Bureau, but some experimental woodlands have been managed by academic institutions such as National Taiwan University, National Chung Hsing University and the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology. Some forests are part of national parks and managed by park authorities.

When the environment and resources ministry is eventually established, the nation’s forests will be divided into sections, with forests that are designated for conservation being managed by the environment and resources ministry, while forestry production is to be managed by the agriculture ministry.

That may seem reasonable, but it is bound to cause confusion about who is actually in charge of certain forest areas.

In a situation where responsibilities and powers are divided, whenever any kind of problem crops up there are sure to be various departments trying to shift responsibility onto one another. Government officials have a tendency to claim credit for anything that goes right, but blame others for anything that goes wrong.

Legislators should have a serious discussion about how to prevent mutual buck-passing and power conflicts. They could hold public hearings and invite experts from academia, business and government departments to discuss these issues before making a final decision.

Forestlands in national parks should be managed by the park authorities. It looks as though the environment and resources ministry will be put in overall charge of them, and that may be the right thing to do.

However, there is a question of whether continued exploitation of forests in national parks that have been made available for exploitation should be banned.

Woodlands used for leisure and tourism are an environmental resource and should be adequately protected rather than being turned into tourist theme parks. Above all, water catchment areas in forest areas need to be protected and managed.

It remains to be seen whether the environment and resources ministry can do a proper job of resource conservation.

Environmental resources are very complicated and should not be allocated and reallocated haphazardly, as that could have a negative impact on the security and sustainable development of the land.

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