Mon, Aug 05, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Building trust

Natural Valley, Taiwan’s first environmental trust, is waiting for the nation’s legal system and bureaucracy to catch up to global environmental trends

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

An independent non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the country’s natural and cultural resources, TEIA has been introducing sustainable land management to places including Dongyuping (東嶼坪), an outlying islet belonging to Penghu islands, and Sansiantai (三仙台) in Taitung County, near the Amis village of Pisilian.

In 2010, when Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co planned to construct a naphtha cracker in Dacheng Township (大城), Changhua County, TEIA — together with several other environmental groups — proposed to buy the lands from the government and turn the Dacheng Wetlands (大城濕地) into an environmental trust.

More than 70,000 people subsequently signed a petition stating that they would either donate or buy the land if the case were accepted by the government.

Sun Hsiu-ju (孫秀如), director of TEIA’s Environmental Trust Center, says setting up an environmental trust is a long-term, continuous undertaking involving discussion and debate.

“What’s unique about the trusts is that they require plenty of communication so as to build trusting relationships and reach consensus,” Sun says. “You set up a goal and keep discussing it with others.”

Local involvement

Wu, who helps manage Natural Valley, agrees. He points out that they often think of ways to integrate local residents and businesses into activities meant to teach the public about the environment.

“It is important to connect and interact with locals. You need to let people understand what you are doing, so that they’ll believe in your goals. And perhaps one day they may even join up,” he says.

To further public awareness of environmental protection, Natural Valley holds a myriad of activities throughout the year, including growing vegetables, basket-weaving, tree climbing and watching fireflies. Wu’s team has also documented the area’s diverse species and their habitat. In so doing, they hope to accumulate experience and knowledge that can be used to help manage a new plot of land when it is purchased or donated.

“The 1.3 hectares of land is too small if we really want to protect species. It doesn’t take a bird much time to fly through it; the migration routes for flying squirrels and mammals like pangolins are also quite extensive,’” Wu says. “In 30 years, we want to be able to preserve 500 hectares of land.”

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