Fri, Nov 12, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Activists come out against building in nature preserve

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff Reporter

Environmental activists and residents in Neihu District (內湖) yesterday protested against a plan by a well-known religious organization to establish a building in a nature preserve there and called on the Taipei City Government not to approve the project.

Chanting slogans “Don’t damage the environment, Tzu Chi Foundation!” in front of Taipei City Hall, several dozens of activists, led by Green Party Taiwan member and writer Chang Hsiao-feng (張曉風), accused the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation of planning to build a volunteer-training complex in a preservation zone located north of Dahu Park.

The zone, they said, is geologically fragile and not suitable for development.

However, the foundation avoided the necessity of having an environmental impact assessment carried out on the project by limiting the development area to within 5 hectares.

“Our request is simple: We want the group to cancel its plan and we want the city government to turn down the proposal. It doesn’t matter what the group does with the building; establishing buildings there would damage the environment,” Green Party Taiwan member Lee Ying-shuan (李盈萱) said.

Protesters insisted on sitting in on the city’s urban planning committee, which convened yesterday to review the proposal. They threatened to hold another protest if the city approved the plan.

Lin Min-chao (林敏朝), a division chief at the foundation, defended the proposal, saying construction would not damage the environment.

“Neihu has become a highly developed area and what we want to do is to push for a plan that strikes a balance between social welfare and environmental protection,” he said.

Tzu Chi purchased the plot of land in 1997 and applied with the city to construct a building in 2005. For the building to be erected legally, the city government would have to change the land designation from preservation zone to “social welfare special zone.”

Lin said the building would be used to train volunteers, while other parts of the land would serve as storage space for recycled materials and relief resources.

The committee failed to reach a consensus on whether to approve the project and said it would hold another meeting to discuss the case.

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