Fri, Jan 10, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Hotel transparency on EIAs needed

By Chan Shun-kuei 詹順貴

It came as no surprise when the Pingtung County government, prioritizing economics as usual, recently completed the procedures for a so-called “legal” environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the Yoho Beach Resort in Kenting National Park.

The resort has been operating illegally for 14 years, and despite the concerns of environmental organizations and academics who have been researching the resort’s impact on the local marine ecology, it will now be able to operate legally.

Regardless of whether it is central or local government, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) or the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in power, the government automatically takes the side of big business.

This is also why big business finds it so easy to rob people of their land and openly destroy and pollute farmland, natural resources and the environment that they rely on.

The Yoho Beach Resort, originally built as an apartment complex, has been illegally operating as a hotel.

Last April, after media reports, sections three to six of the resort were ordered to close.

However, on the morning of Oct. 12 last year, between 10am and 11am, when hotels are at their busiest, there was no sign that business had been affected.

The place was packed with guests getting ready to check out.

Despite online media reports featuring pictures of receipts from the resort showing that it is still in business, officials from Pingtung County Tourism Bureau — who should be punishing the hotel — appear on television excusing the hotel.

First, county officials did this to cover up for the hotel and second, to shirk responsibility for their failure to monitor the complex properly.

How can the public be expected to believe that the county government is carrying out EIAs sincerely and ensuring that the resort complies with their commendations based on assessments?

According to a long-term study conducted by Allen Chen (陳昭倫) and his colleagues from Academia Sinica’s Biodiversity Research Center, coral cover, capable of supporting fishing stocks in Kenting’s Wanlitung (萬里桐) coastal area, has plummeted from 46.57 percent to 17.49 percent cover over the last decade, a period over which the population of the area actually shrank.

The only new source of pollution at that time was wastewater coming from the Yoho resort that was not being monitored, since the resort was operating illegally.

A few years after the resort started operating, coral in the nearby waters started to die. The resort’s operators have denied that there is a connection, yet the timing is difficult to ignore.

To solve this problem, the county government conditionally passed an EIA, which was conducted on the resort with an understanding that it would reduce wastewater emissions to zero.

That EIA report also explicitly stipulated a set of emissions standards for everyday water use — including even stricter than legally acceptable levels — that the resort had to comply with before the zero emission target was achieved.

As a result, the then-chairman of the EIA committee, who also happened to be the head of the Pingtung County Environmental Protection Bureau, bragged that the everyday-use water emission standards they were requiring the resort to comply with were the highest in the country.

However, figures show that the amount of water used by each tourist per day far exceed the amount used by a single person per day in an average household setting.

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