Mon, Jun 14, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Kuokuang rejects ‘eco-corridor’

TOO EXPENSIVEThe Kuokuang chairman deemed a proposal to create a passage for the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins at a planned petrochemical plant as unfeasible

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co last week rejected a proposal to create an eco-corridor specifically for the passage of Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins by splitting the area used by the petrochemical plant in half, saying the move would increase construction costs.

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) hosted a meeting with experts on Thursday to evaluate the impact Kuokuang’s proposed petrochemical plant along a coastal area in Changhua County would have on one of the world’s critically endangered species.

Based on the company’s plan, the petrochemical plant would be built on reclaimed land of more than 4,000 hectares. A harbor would also be built on the reclaimed land to ship petrochemical products.

Members on the EPA’s Environmental Impact Assessment Committee recommended that Kuokuang open a passage between the petrochemical plant and the harbor and create an “eco-corridor” for humpback dolphins about 5m to 10m deep and 800m wide.

Kuokuang chairman Chen Bao-lang (陳寶郎), however, said the proposal was not feasible.

“Doing so would increase our construction costs by NT$24.5 billion [US$765 million],” Chen said. “So far, the investment has increased from approximately NT$400 billion to NT$600 billion. Our shareholders may not agree to add more money just for the sake of the dolphins.”

Environmentalists, however, said the massive development would impede the passage of the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins and put their survival at risk.

The meeting opened with a briefing from a research team led by National Taiwan University professor Chou Lien-siang (周蓮香), who was commissioned by Kuokuang to assess the influence of the petrochemical plant on the humpback dolphins and make recommendations. The team concluded that the main corridor for the humpback dolphins ranges from Longfeng Fishing Harbor (龍鳳漁港) in Miaoli County and Chiangchun Fishing Harbor (將軍漁港) in Tainan County.

Using sightings and photographs, the team estimated that the number of dolphins living along the west coast of Taiwan was about 86.

“The population [of humpback dolphins] has reached a tipping point,” Chou said. “It will decrease drastically if any critical event happens from now on.”

The team also said the coastal area to the south of Changhua County was an important passage for humpback dolphins, adding that about 30 percent of the population has used the passage to move from south to north and vice versa.

“The construction of a harbor may not completely block the traffic of the dolphins,” the team said in its report. “However, with the potential interruptions from sea vessels, the animals may need more energy [to pass through the area].”

“Should the construction lead to a permanent division of the passage, the population could reach functional extinction within 13 to 75 years,” the team said. “If the division is temporary, it could potentially reduce the population by between 6 percent and 50 percent after 15 years.”

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