A three-day rock festival over the weekend highlighted the deteriorating environment of Fulung Beach (福隆海水浴場) in Kungliao Township, Taipei County, because it was conducted on a "fake beach," environmentalists said yesterday.
The fourth annual Ho-Hai-Yan Rock Festival, which ended on Sunday, attracted more than 160,000 people and 60 vendors serving local seafood, according to the Taipei County Government, which sponsored the outdoor activity.
The gathering, which stressed intimacy with the ocean, was conducted on a fake beach of sand transferred from a nearby bay, according to environmentalists, who spent the three days of the festival promoting the protection of Fulung Beach.
"The sand beneath the tourists was transferred from nearby Yenliao Bay. Sandbags surrounding the artificial beach confined people to a small area," said Lai Wei-chieh (賴偉傑), secretary-general of the Green Citizens' Action Alliance, a Taipei-based anti-nuclear group.
Lai said that the area for the activity was only half of that in 1999, when the festival was held for the first time.
Lai said that the loss of sand is a result of construction of a nearby wharf for the import of parts for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, run by the Taiwan Power Company.
Activists from the alliance and other groups said in 2000 they showed pictures of dying coral covered by sand from the construction site of the wharf to the Cabinet's Environmental Protection Administration, urging it to deal with the deterioration of the coastal environment.
The Cabinet did nothing until January, when conservationists and Kungliao residents visited Premier Yu Shyi-kun to demand an investigation into the effects the wharf was having on the beaches nearby.
In April, a Cabinet-level task force investigating coastal erosion concluded that the loss of sand at Fulung Beach could be attributed to stress to the environment caused by construction of the wharf.
The deterioration of the coastal environment is also worrying local tourism officials.
According to the Northeast Coast National Scenic Area Administration Tourism Bureau, the beach is about 50cm lower than before, attracting fewer tourists.
Kungliao Township Chief Chen Shih-nan (陳世男) said on Sunday that the rock festival had created business opportunities for local residents. To make it more profitable, Chen said, the local government should next year make the event four days over two weekends.
Chen said, however, that many residents were worried that the loss of sand would eventually cause activities on the beach to move elsewhere.
Chen said Taipower should be responsible for the loss of sand and conduct ecological restoration work.
"Hopefully, next year we won't have to transfer sand from elsewhere to create a fake beach for the rock festival," Chen said.
Taipower, however, intends to replace the sand rather than pull down the wharf, designed to accommodate heavy machinery on its way to the plant.
Last month, Taipower unloaded a 1,007-tonne nuclear-pressure vessel from the wharf, a key step toward ensuring that the plant can begin commercial operation on schedule in July 2006.
Taipower officials said the second nuclear-pressure vessel would be transferred no later than early next year in order to start generating power in 2007.