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Fri, Nov 09, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Activists demand forestry review

PUBLIC CAMPAIGN Conservationists say the mudslides caused by Typhoon Nari laid bare the effects of years of Taiwan's incompetent and uncaring forest management

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The National Teachers' Association launched a campaign called ``A postcard per person to save the forests'' at a press conference yesterday and called for laws banning logging in natural forest areas.

PHOTO: CHEN CHENG-CHANG, TAIPEI TIMES

Conservationists yesterday urged the public to send postcards to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to demand a comprehensive review of forestry policies.

"Typhoons this autumn -- such as Toraji and Nari -- revealed the fragility of ecological systems in Taiwan and exposed the inappropriateness of the forestry policies of the past 50 years," said Li Ken-cheng (李根政), director of the ecological education center of the National Teachers' Association.

Li spoke at a press conference which was held to get publicity for the fight against the destruction of forests.

Activists at the press conference performed a skit to illustrate the damage caused by human activities in mountain areas.

Li said government policies were responsible for mudslides triggered by heavy rain during typhoons and flooding around Taipei in mid-September.

Activists have launched a campaign called "A postcard per person to save the forests," an attempt to draw the president's attention to what they say is the inadequacy of the current forestry policy, Li said.

The action involves dozens of social groups, including the National Teachers' Association, the Homemakers' Union and Foundation, the Taiwan Christian Ecological Center and the Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan.

Slogans printed on the postcard include calls for laws to ban logging in natural forest areas and the expulsion of the Vocational Assistance Commission for Retired Servicemen (VACRS) from the forestry administration system.

The postcard was designed by the National Teachers' Association and also calls for the establishment of a national park at Chilan Mountain (棲蘭山).

According to conservationists, an agency called the Forest Protection Department under the VACRS has logged 6,000 hectares of red and yellow cypress trees over the past 30 years in the Chilan Mountain area. The area is the principal source of water that supplies half of Taiwan's population.

In the past 50 years, Li said, the government has logged 344,700 hectares of natural forest areas -- about three times the area of Yu Shan National Park (玉山國家公園).

The lobby group estimated that over 20,000 postcards would soon be sent to the Presidential Office.

Activists complained that political figures in Taiwan only care about economic development, citing the current global economic recession -- and even legislative candidates rarely mention environmental issues.

"There will be no hope for Taiwan if political figures keep talking about economic development only," said Chan Man-li (陳曼麗), board chairperson of the Homemakers' Union and Foundation.

Chang Feng-nan (張豐年), a doctor from Taichung County, one of the areas most severely affected by the 921 Earthquake, said that displaced earth in mountain areas had not been replaced.

"The ecological engineering methods adopted by the Executive Yuan's 921 Earthquake Post-Disaster Recovery Commission -- to restore collapsed land in mountain areas -- did not work at all," Chang said, adding that this year's typhoons had made the situation worse.

"Using technology to solve environmental problems, without human beings reviewing their attitude toward nature, will eventually prove to be futile," said Lin Yih-ren (林益仁), assistant professor of social transformation studies at Shih Hsin University.

Lin said the government must change its logging-oriented forestry policies into preservation-oriented policies as soon as possible.

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