Sat, Aug 30, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Penghu project under fire

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A development project on Chipei islet (吉貝嶼), Penghu County, should be suspended immediately because it could seriously damage the ecological system, conservationists said yesterday.

"What we see here is a solution for an unsatisfactory situation that actually makes things worse," Chen Yueh-fong (陳玉峰), an ecologist who won this year's Presidential Cultural Award, told the Taipei Times yesterday.

According to Chen, the project is part of government attempts to replace dozens of log cabins on the islet, the result of unplanned tourism, with a huge development project calling for millions of dollars in investment.

Last July, the Public Construction Commission and the Penghu National Scenic Area Administration under the Ministry of Transportation and Communication's Tourism Bureau invited bids for the project, which aimed at boosting local tourism.

According to the ministry, the more than NT$300 million investment would turn 22 hectares of land and 210 hectares of surrounding sea into an international recreational tourist spot. Shopping malls, restaurants, a luxury five-star hotel containing 350 rooms and parking lots would be established.

The deadline for evaluating developers' bids was set for next Tuesday. In October, the official bidding will be held. Approved developers will be entitled to run the business on the islet for 50 years.

"Why does the government intend to make the islet a source of pollutants, which would affect not only surrounding waters but also neighboring countries?" said Chen, who is an ecology professor at Providence University.

If the project proceeds, Chen said, pollutants discharged from the islet affect the coastlines of Japan, China and even South Korea.

On Thursday, Chen launched a signature drive on the Internet against the proposals. The drive, called "Saving the auspicious treasure islet," has so far received an enthusiastic response from not only environmentalists but also people with diverse professional backgrounds.

Chen said the islet, near the midline of the Taiwan Strait, was unlikely to attract foreign tourists because of its sensitive strategic position.

"But it can be an excellent base for Taiwanese scientists working on hot international issues regarding long-term environmental change, such as the rising sea level," Chen said.

The coastline on the islet, Chen said, is retreating 3m a year because of global warming.

Green Formosa Front chairman Wu Tung-jye (吳東傑) yesterday visited officials of the Penghu National Scenic Area Administration, arguing that the bidding process should be delayed.

"The environmental impact assessment has not been done at all," Wu said.

According to Hung Chih-kuang (洪志光), an official of the administration, the project is well-designed and took into consideration environmental concerns.

"We have set aside 10 hectares of land for scientific activities," Hung said.

In addition, Hung said, the government and developers would jointly recycle all waste water and have all garbage either incinerated or buried at an existing landfill.

To further push the government to halt the project, environmentalists and ecological conservationists will protest in front of the Tourism Bureau in Taipei on Monday.

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