Environmentalists and researchers urged the government yesterday to do more to promote coastal conservation.
The call came on the same day as officials with Formosa Plastics presented their plan to accelerate the administrative process for developing the Yunlin Offshore Industrial Park, where the company's Sixth Naptha Cracker is located, to Premier Yu Shyi-kun.
Since 1994, when the government began building the industrial park near the estuary of the Choshui River, environmentalists and aca-demics have raised concerns about the impact of large-scale development projects on the coastline.
In January, scientists with the Council of Agriculture (COA) reported that the natural environment in coastal areas near the estuary has been deteriorating dramatically since 1993 due to the establishment of industrial complexes and fish farms.
Of some 150 rivers and streams in the country, the 186km Choshui is the longest. It originates in the Central Range, passes through Nantou County and reaches the sea at the boundary between Changhua and Yunlin counties.
According to Chiau Wen-yan (
Environmentalists also said erosion of the sandbar, a natural barrier to weaken waves, would further harm coastal areas in Chiayi and Tainan counties.
Responding to Yu's promise to accelerate administrative procedures for the development project, including an environmental impact assessment, Green Formosa Front chairman Wu Tung-jye (吳東傑) said yesterday that the government treats environmental regulations as tools to please influential developers.
"Yu's support of Formosa demonstrates that most development projects in Taiwan are carried out even though comprehensive studies of coastal ecology were unavailable," Wu said.
He added the company was "looting a burning house" because the government was experiencing crises ranging from an economic recession caused by SARS to political turbulence with the approach of the presidential election.
Kao Ruey-chy (高瑞棋), a researcher of Tainan Hydraulics Laboratory at National Cheng Kung University, said yesterday that a three-year study on the sandbar suggested that the loss of sand could be attributed to natural causes, such as the action of waves.
"However, we might see effects on the sandbar, which is larger than the area of Taipei City, as a result of increasing human activities in coastal areas," Kao said.
Kao said protection of the sandbar, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Yunlin County Government, was essential to coastal preservation in Chiayi and Tainan counties and that "prevention measures needed to be arranged as soon as possible."
Last month, the Water Resources Agency and the COA decided to spend NT$32 million to plant vegetation on the sandbar.
Public Construction Commission Vice Chairman Kuo Ching-chiang (郭清江), who visited the sandbar with Chiayi County Government officials last week, said the government would gather more information on the relationship between coastal developments and environmental deterioration.
"If the development of the industrial park does damage the environment, I will have the topic discussed at the Cabinet's National Council for Sustainable Development," Kuo said.