Wed, Nov 12, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Landowners blast COA over wetlands plan

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

More than 100 landowners from Ilan County's Shuanglienpei wetland protest outside the Legislative Yuan yesterday against the Council of Agriculture's decision to requisition land in the name of environmental protection.

PHOTO: LIN CHENG-KUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

More than 100 furious landowners hit out at the Council of Agriculture yesterday, saying that the designation of a wildlife protection area in Shuanglienpei (雙連埤), a wetland in Ilan County, ignored the needs of locals.

The landowners camped out in front of the Legislative Yuan in the early morning demanding support from legislators and denouncing last month's announcement by the council that a 750-hectare area would be set aside as a habitat for wildlife.

Landowners said they were worried the government was going to take their land away from them despite official assurances that only 17 hectares would be requisitioned by the government.

"We hope the plan will be abolished immediately," said one landowner.

Residents said that they had planted scallion, ginger and other vegetables there for decades and had never seen any wildlife.

Waving banners that said "fake conservation" and "return land to me," residents called for the resignation of council chairman Lee Ching-lung (李金龍).

Residents said the Ilan County Government had asked them to sign their names on a statement, which they were told would give their consent to turning the wetland into an agricultural recreational resort.

However, residents said the statement turned out to be a document supporting a proposal brought by the county government for the establishment of a wildlife protection area.

People First Party Legislator Cheng Mei-lan (鄭美蘭), who represents Ilan, said that both the local government and the council failed to take public opinion into account.

"Compulsory land requisition lacking well-planned measures might push residents into a hopeless situation," Cheng said.

After visiting the Legislative Yuan, protesters yesterday marched to the council, handing over their petition to the director of the Forestry Department, Lai Chien-hsing (賴建興).

Lai said that the announcement was made after a comprehensive evaluation by experts, who confirmed that a lake there is an important habitat for wildlife.

Council officials stressed that land requisition would only affect owners who own land in the 17-hectares set aside for requisitioning.

Protesters said another demonstration would be held if they received no answer from the council within three days.

Conservationists said the wetland deserved to be protected because of its biodiversity.

They added that studies had been carried out since 1984 with support from the local government. Research shows that the wetland is home to at least 202 species of plants and 56 aquatic animals, including endangered frogs and turtles.

Contracted experts suggested that the government develop an eco-tourism route connecting Shuanglianpei and the nearby Fushan ecological preserve, where endangered species and plants are well-protected, to promote environmental education and boost the local economy.

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