Sat, Aug 21, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Activists look to buy another 800 hectares of wetlands

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

After 50,000 people signed up to purchase 200 hectares of coastal wetlands in Changhua County in an attempt to block the construction of a petrochemical plant in the area, environmentalists yesterday announced the beginning of the second phase of the project — to purchase another 800 hectares.

The group also urged the government not to scupper the campaign through administrative measures.

“More than 50,000 people — from across the country, including the offshore islands — have agreed to purchase a total of 200 hectares of wetlands along the Changhua coast. Now it’s time for us to start the second phase of the project,” Taiwan Environmental Protection Union Changhua Division chairman Tsai Chia-yang (蔡嘉陽) said. “This time, we will look to purchase another 800 hectares of wetlands in the area.”

Tsai said that the original 200 hectares are in a coastal strip along which the critically endangered pink dolphin lives. The 800 hectares to be purchased in the second phase of the campaign are an essential habitat for some bird species, he said.

Although coastal wetlands in Changhua County’s Dacheng Township (大城), to the north of the mouth of Jhuoshuei River (濁水溪), are an important habitat for many endangered fish and bird species, Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co plans to build oil refineries in the area.

Worried about the ecological damage and pollution that such a plan would bring, environmentalists and locals have launched the ambitious project to raise money for an environmental trust fund to purchase the land that Kuokuang wants to use to build refineries.

Each share — 1m² of land — will cost only NT$119.

Though more than 50,000 people have expressed interest, the Ministry of the Interior has yet to approve the application for the creation of the environmental trust fund.

Deputy Minister of the Interior Lin Tsyr-ling (林慈玲) said environmental groups had not yet registered to enable themselves to create a trust fund and that the groups had not received consent from the National Property Administration to buy the land.

Tsai said the groups were still in the process of registering to create a trust fund, but added that he did not agree that the consent of the National Property Administration is needed before the ministry could review their case.

“The ministry says it’s the agency in charge of approving trust funds, but then it says it won’t do anything with our application before receiving consent from the National Property Administration. That’s giving the power to decide to the National Property Administration,” Tsai said.

“If the government thinks 50,000 people is not enough, we will go for 500,000 in the second phase to see if they would dare try to scupper the plan through administrative measures,” he said.

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