Wed, Jan 13, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Hualien project hit by protest

‘FLAWED’ Residents and environmentalists protested against a proposal to build a vacation resort on the outskirts of Hualien City that dodged an environmental study

By Vincent Y. Chao  /  STAFF REPORTER

A large and controversial development project near scenic destination Cisingtan (七星潭) in Hualien came under protest as local residents and environmental organizations held a demonstration in front of the Environmental Protection Administration yesterday.

The protesters said that the 4.5 hectare development would destroy the area’s fragile ecosystem, remove their access to the beach and lacked community involvement.

They accused Hualien County Government officials of colluding with developers after they approved the proposal without conducting an environmental impact assessment. They added that officials should first finalize an overall development plan for the community.

The proposal, located on Haian Road next to Hualien Airport on the outskirts of Hualien City, includes the construction of a large vacation resort with a mix of commercial space.

Hualien County Government officials said the project would become part of a larger plan to develop the area, with land set aside for manufacturing and agricultural centers. They said the plan would help jump-start the county’s lagging economy, create jobs and increase tourism dollars.

Under county regulations, the proposal does not require an environmental impact assessment because the development area is less than 10 hectares.

In a public hearing after the protest, You Huang-ming (游煌明), who heads the Cisingtan Community Development Association, called both the proposal and the process “flawed.”

“We are not against development in general, but in this case, they haven’t shown any consideration for us local residents or our environment,” You said. “All that has [mattered] to the county government and the wealthy developers has been how to make [money].”

Local resident Tsai Chung-yueh (蔡中岳) said the proposal would harm the local culture and create large amounts of pollution — something the area’s small community could not accept.

“We want a clean and natural shoreline … that all residents can enjoy,” Tsai said. “This just isn’t a suitable location.”

Opposition to the project has grown in recent months after organizers said an online petition gathered more than 40,000 signatures.

The petition calls for county officials to reject the resort project and revise the entire Cisingtan area development proposal.

In response to the concerns, developer representative Huang Chin-fa (黃進發) apologized to the protesters for what he called “inadequate communication.”

“It is not our plan to destroy this beautiful environment,” Huang said.

He promised residents that the construction would not extend into the beach area, while the environmental exposure would be minimized. He said the company would attempt to source workers and supplies from neighboring communities.

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