Sat, Oct 12, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Southern Taiwan embraces nature

ECO-TOURSIM An international conference in Tainan County will discuss ways to balance preservation of the environment with money-making tourism projects

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A new debate is brewing over an area in Chiku township (七股), Tainan County earmarked as a black-faced spoonbill reserve by the Council of Agriculture.

The area is a promising sightseeing spot, Tainan County Gov-ernment officials said yesterday, but ecologists warned that visiting crowds may upset the balance of nature on the site.

Tainan County Commissioner Su Huan-chih (蘇煥智) met yesterday with an international team of ecologists who are in Tainan to participate in the two-day International Conference of Black-faced Spoonbill Conservation which begins today in Tainan County.

Foreign ecologists suggested that the pavilions near black-faced spoonbills' wintering site should left alone for quiet bird watchers rather than made accessible to tourists and vendors.

Su said the council's announce-ment of laws regulating the black-faced spoonbill reserve would serve to guide local authorities in how to wisely manage the area.

"We plan to build a research center near the black-faced spoon-bill habitat for ecologists and organizations to further protect the fragile ecological system in Chi-ku," Su said.

The area has been controversial since 1993, when the Tuntex Group and Yieh-loong Group proposed building the Pinnan Industrial Complex (濱南工業區) to promote petrochemical and steel-making industries. Since then, conservationists have protested against the industrial usage of Chiku Lagoon, a wintering site for endangered black-faced spoonbills.

According to conservationists, the world population of black-faced spoonbills is estimated at less than 1,000. The endangered bird breeds on islets near the Korean Peninsula, spending wintertime in places ranging from Japan and China to Taiwan and Vietnam.

On average, about 600 black-faced spoonbills migrate to Chiku.

The Environmental Protection Administration is evaluating the environmental impact assessment the Pinnan project would have on the area, focusing on water supply and harbor usage issues.

Earlier this year Su proposed scrapping the Pinnan project and developing the area as an eco-tourism site, an idea which gained the support of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

On Aug. 22 in Chiku, Chen said that he would fully support Su's idea to establish a "Nanying national scenic area," arguing eco-tourism in coastal counties, including Yunlin, Chiayi and Tainan, should be promoted.

Chen Jin-an (陳俊安), executive-general of Nanying national scenic area development office, told the Taipei Times that the area covers about 20,000 hectares of coastal land, including the 643-hectare black-faced spoonbill reserve that the Council of Agriculture plans to announce soon.

"We aim to ensure Chiku's sustainability through promoting low-density, high-quality eco-tourism," he said.

At this weekend's conference, Peter Schleifenbaumof the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve in Ontario, Canada and Terry Brown, professor of Griffith University in Australia, will share their experiences balancing eco-tourism and conservation.

King Hen-biau (金恆鑣), chair of the East Asia-Pacific Regional Long-Term Ecological Research Coordinating Committee, said that transplanting foreign experience to Taiwan might not work because of insufficient resources.

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