Sat, Mar 23, 2002 - Page 11 News List

Benefits beyond bondaries

The use of protected areas was the topic of conversation for conservationists and academics in Taiwan this week

By Jacques Van Wersch  /  CONTRIBUTING REPOTER

Yangmingshan National Park played host to park planners from the East Asia region this past week. This year has been designated by the UN as the Year of the Mountains. Preservation of mountain areas bounded by urban areas was a high-priority topic at the WCPA-EA conference.

PHOTO: CHEN MING-MING

East Asian conservation officials and academics gathered at Yangmingshan National Park this past week to exchange ideas on management and use of national protection areas, including national parks. The theme, "Benefits Beyond Boundaries in East Asia," is particularly apt for Taiwan, which shares marine boundaries with neighboring nations and is dealing with its own redefinition of "boundaries" within the government departments that manage Taiwan's preservation areas.

This was the fourth World Commission on Protected Areas in East Asia (WCPA-EA) conference since 1993. The first three were held in Beijing, Kushiro, Japan and Seoul. More than 300 participants from the region attended the Yangmingshan conference, which also is counted among the major cross-strait exchange events of the year, with 50 delegates from China in attendance. In addition, participation by delegates from both North and South Korea underscored the conference's "beyond boundaries" theme.

David Sheppard, the head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Program on Protected Areas, explained that the conferences are, "about trying to break down barriers and increasing cooperation." Sheppard was in Yangmingshan promoting the 2003 World Parks Congress (to be held in Durban, South Africa), for which he will serve as secretary general, and which is also themed "Benefits Beyond Boundaries." The conference serves as a venue for exchanging ideas, and as a launching pad for further exchanges.

Taiwan's protected areas

Chang Lung-Sheng (張隆盛), former director general of the Environmental Protection Administration and former vice minister of the Ministry of the Interior served as a co-chair at the conference, and is known in Taiwan conservation circles as the godfather of Taiwan's national parks. Chang's enthusiasm for conservation has not diminished since the 1980s, when as the director general of the Construction and Planning Administration -- the government agency in charge of Taiwan's national parks -- he helped put into action plans to establish four of Taiwan's six national parks, beginning with Kenting National Park in 1982.

The late 1990s saw a leveling off of park planning in Taiwan, after Shei-Pa and Kinmen national parks were established in 1992 and 1995 respectively. (Taiwan's other national parks are Yangmingshan, Yushan, and Taroko. It is expected that Makao Chinese Cypress National Park (馬告檜木國家公園) in the north-central region will be established soon.) Taiwan has designated more than 20 percent of its total land area as protected areas, more than double the worldwide protection level. For an island as densely populated as Taiwan, this is an impressive figure, but Chang cautions, "I think we should concentrate our efforts on delivering effective protection to a core of key areas rather than nominally protecting such a large area."

"There is next to no enforcement of conservation measures in Taiwan's nature and forest reserves due largely to a lack of monitoring. The only natural places in Taiwan where there is effective monitoring and a law (the National Park Law) backing up the principles of conservation are national parks," says Chang who advocates a systematic overhaul of the current fragmented management regime. Chang also notes that national scenic areas managed by the Tourism Bureau are set up purely for recreation with little or no interpretive features, and no effort at conservation.

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