The Miramar Resort Hotel development in Taitung County is an opportunistic plan that flies in the face of the conclusions of its environmental impact assessment (EIA). Anyone siding with this development is guilty by association. The Taitung County government has already shown its colors, and has been found wanting. Now it is time for the Ministry of the Interior to step up to the plate.
All land use is governed by a template of guidelines and standards that are to be complied with. Land use along Taiwan’s coastal areas, for example, is governed by the Taiwan Coastal Area Environmental Protection Plan. The ministry is the central government body responsible for this protection plan, and the Miramar Resort Hotel development happens to be on land designated under the plan as a general conservation area. According to the plan, the principle behind environmental protection within these conservation areas is “to maintain the existing model of resource usage such that the particular characteristics of the ecology and the natural scenery remains unaffected.”
As a result, Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源), who specializes in national land use planning and disaster prevention, should address a number of points.
First, can one really claim that the Miramar Resort will not affect the characteristics of the ecology and the natural scenery in the area?
Second, is the chosen location of the resort permissible according to the specifications of the coastal area conservation plan? Should it be issued a construction license?
Third, if this building is not declared illegal, exactly what would it take for a building to be declared as such?
Fourth, if this building is not torn down, does this mean that the coastal area conservation plan would need to be revised?
Finally, what exactly is the coastal area protection plan supposed to be protecting? Corporate interests? Hotel resorts? Or coastal areas?
The ministry completed the initial overall review for the coastal area protection plan in 2010, when the Dulan (都蘭) Shanyuan (杉原海岸) coastal area was designated a conservation area. This move not only specified that the ecology and the natural scenery of the Shanyuan coast was to be conserved, it meant that the conservation of the coast was to be elevated to the status of “strict prohibition of any activity that would change the ecology and natural scenery of the area, in which the conservation of the natural resources within the area is to be reinforced.”
However, the Cabinet has yet to ratify this overall review. One cannot say for sure whether this has anything to do with the Miramar Resort Hotel, but the suspicions are there.
In addition, according to measurements taken by the Ministry of Transport and Communications’ Directorate General of Highways between 1995 and 1997, the east coast is receding by 4m per year, on average, and studies have shown that the coast along the southern edge of the Dulan alluvial fan is being eroded at an average of 3.3m every year.
Waves whipped up by Typhoon Jelawat smashed against the Miramar Resort Hotel. Given the rate of land loss and coastal erosion, it is strange that such unbridled development and construction is being allowed, with apparent disregard for safety.
It is hard to imagine how Lee, who is supposed to be an expert in national land management, can turn a blind eye to rampant development on the east coast, and allow the local government and corporate groups to ravage coastal areas in the region.
Liao Pen-chuan is an associate professor at National Taipei University’s Department of Real Estate and Built Environment, and president of Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan.
Translated by Paul Cooper