Thu, Jan 16, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Satellite photos prove coastal damage

COST OF DEVELOPMENT Taiwan's fascination with coastal industrial zones has hugely damaged the natural environment, new evidence has shown


Wildlife such as this endangered black-faced spoonbill has suffered from the industrial development of Taiwan's west coast, an examination of photos taken over an eight-year period by a French satellite has shown.


The natural environment in coastal areas near the estuary of the Choshui River (濁水溪) in central Taiwan has been deteriorating dramatically since 1993 due to the establishment of industrial complexes and fish farms, a report by scientists of the Council of Agriculture (COA) said yesterday.

Among some 150 rivers and streams in Taiwan, the 186km Choshui is the longest. It originates from the Central Range, passes through mountainous Nantou County, and reaches the sea as the boundary between Changhua and Yunlin counties.

Ecologists of the COA's Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute (TESRI) said yesterday that analysis of satellite images suggested that eco-systems in the estuary had changed dramatically over the years. These images were taken by the French space agency, Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales between 1993 and 2001.

In addition, TESRI also took aerial photos of the estuary and carried out field investigation for further analysis of environmental changes.

Ecologists said that the natural environment had been damaged for years by human activities, such as building reservoirs upstream, establishing industrial parks in coastal areas, turning sandy beaches into fish farms, and constructing coastal expressways.

In addition, ecologists said, several typhoon strikes had resulted in coastal land being covered with sand after being inundated by turbid sea water.

Ecologists said the environmental deterioration was driven by both human and natural factors. Decades ago, many migrant birds wintered in coastal wetlands near the estuary and sandlots, waters and swamps were randomly distributed.

"Taiwan's early idea of building industrial parks along the coast with no ecological conservation concern deserves to be reviewed urgently," Chen Tien-shui (陳添水), an assistant researcher of TESRI's Division of Habitats and Ecosystems, told the Taipei Times.

Marine environmental experts said that it was time for Taiwan to turn unused industrial parks distributed along the west coast into artificial wetlands in order to not only restore damaged eco-systems but also to educate future generations.

According to Chiau Wen-yan (邱文彥), an associate professor of Marine Environment and Engineering at National Sun Yat-sen University, the development of industrial parks is closely linked to coastal erosion.

Taking Yunlin Offshore Industrial Park (雲林離島工業區), where the Sixth Naphtha Cracker (六輕) run by Formosa Plastics Corp is located, as an example, Chiau said the huge industrial park blocked drifting sand toward the south, causing the erosion to the Waishanding sandbar (外傘頂洲) outside Chiayi County.

The site of the industrial park covers more than 1,000-hectares of land reclaimed from the sea, and about 500m from the coastline.

"There's no reason for us to build so many huge artificial barriers along the coast to disturb the flow of drifting sand, cause coastal erosion, and damage natural eco-systems," Chiau said.

Chiau said that Japan had successfully transformed declining small industrial zones into artificial wetlands and some were even designated as internationally important under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands established in 1971.

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