Fri, Apr 13, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Groups rush to aid of dolphin by asking for government help

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin, right, speaks at a press conference at the Legislative Yuan yesterday urging the government to save Taiwan's humpback dolphins by reducing development on the west coast.

PHOTO: CNA

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋菫) and environmental groups yesterday asked the government to stop development projects in Changhua County, saying they may cause heavy pollution and the extinction of a rare marine species.

The development projects named by the group include a steel mill, a petrochemical plant, two coal-fired power plants and water reservoirs.

Environmental groups are worried that the development projects may cause heavy damage to the environment and possibly even the extinction of a rare marine species, S. chinensis, the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin.

The dolphins are known locally by people who live along Taiwan's west coast as "Matsu fish" because the mammals are usually active around the birthday of Matsu -- the goddess of the sea in traditional Taiwanese belief -- in May, Tien said.

Currently, there are less than 200 of the dolphins in the area, she added.

"`Matsu fish' can be considered an index to the level of pollution in the area," Tien told the press conference. "The pollution is low if we can still find the species in the area."

Environmental damage caused by construction projects includes the shrinking of the dolphins' available living space due to land reclamation and dumping, and damage to the dolphins' sonar systems, which can cause death due to low-frequency vibrations produced by construction, said Tsai Chia-yang (蔡嘉揚), president of the Chuanghua Alliance for Environmental Protection.

"In addition, the reservoirs ... may threaten food sources for marine species, because they will block the flow of organic content into the sea," he added.

The groups went to the Department of Environmental Protection to present their request, as the meeting to evaluate the environmental impact of the development projects was in progress.

However, the department did not respond, citing the need for an independent evaluation.

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