Thu, May 29, 2003 - Page 4 News List

`Protectors' damage coast

HARM DONE Despite protecting a few sea-front houses and harbors, the construction of tetrapods and breakwaters can ruin the area's scenic beauty

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Environmentalists and Hualien residents say the placing of `wave-killing' tetrapods on beaches to break up wave action cause environmental deterioration and can ruin the scenic beauty of the area.

PHOTO: OFFICE OF LEGISLATOR EUGENE JAO

Inappropriate civil construction carried out by the government to prevent damage caused by violent waves to coastal areas in eastern counties, including Hualien and Taitung, are harming not only gorgeous scenery but also precious ecological systems, legislators and environmentalists said yesterday.

At a press conference held at the Legislative Yuan, conservationists from the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union's Hualien chapter displayed photos showing significant changes to the well-known scenic spot, Seven Star Beach in Hualien.

The photographs were taken before and after construction of a 32m artificial structure composed of wave-killing tetrapods, designed to break up wave action, and irregularly stacked boulders.

Environmentalists said that the NT$8.8 million construction pro-ject was launched last month even though no scientific evidence supporting its necessity was available.

"It is just one of many disappointing cases, which are carried out to satisfy greedy local political figures rather than to protect the coastline," said Chung Pao-chu (鍾寶珠), head of the chapter.

Tsai Wan-kung (蔡萬宮), director of the Ninth River Basin under the Water Resources Agency (WRA), said that the positioning of 640 wave-killing tetrapods on the beach was necessary because residential areas 200m inland would be threatened by floods during the typhoon season.

According to DPP legislator Eugene Jao (趙永清), the government spent NT$2.36 billion building 8,566 5m high wave-killing tetrapods in Hualien County. About 85 percent of wave-killing tetrapods in Taiwan are built in eastern Hualien and Taitung counties.

"Carrying out these construction projects, which are depleting the national treasury and destroying natural resources in eastern Taiwan, is contradictory to all our resolutions to promote sustainable development," Jao said.

WRA officials said that increasing development and population growth have left coastal areas more vulnerable to a variety of hazards, including huge waves. WRA statistics show that along Taiwan's 1,500km-long coastline, 50km has been reinforced by wave-killing tetrapods and an additional 500km by breakwaters.

The construction at Seven Star Beach, scheduled to be completed in August, was halted last week due to strong local opposition.

WRA Deputy Chen Shen-hsien (陳伸賢) said that planting vegetation or establishing windbreaking forests might be ways to mitigate damage to the coastline.

"We will do our best to communicate with residents, showing our sincerity toward not only flood-disaster prevention but also coastal protection," Chen said.

Scientific researchers also urged the government to review the project and take biodiversity into account.

"In Hualien, we've seen a rapid drop in the number of crabs in coastal areas. This can be attributed to the environmentally-unfriendly constructions that are erected to prevent damage by huge waves," said Jeng Ming-shiou (鄭明修), a zoologist at Academia Sinica.

Chiau Wen-yan (邱文彥), an associate professor of marine environment and engineering at National Sun Yat-sen University, said the WRA need to study coastal mechanisms before building breakwaters and any more wave-breaking tetrapods.

"We have to respect the dynamic equilibrium in nature, and try to find out how artificial structures might damage the natural coastline," Chiau said.

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