The Ministry of the Interior’s (MOI) Construction and Planning Agency yesterday responded positively to a call by environmentalists for laws to protect the nation’s wetlands as lawmakers across party lines yesterday urged the government to pay more attention to the issue.
“It is about time we rethought our attitude toward the wetlands,” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋瑾) told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan. “In the past, the wetlands were considered useless, but now we know that they help keep water clean, and are important for the ecosystem — we are lucky that the wetlands in our country are so ecologically diverse, we need to do more to protect them starting now.”
People First Party Legislator Chang Hsiao-feng (張曉風) agreed.
“We did not understand what purpose the wetlands served before, but now we do and that knowledge should change how we think,” she said.
Chang became a prominent figure in the environmental movement after she kneeled in front of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in 2010, asking him to veto a project to build a biotech research center on wetlands in Taipei City’s Nangang District (南港).
Tien’s and Chang’s remarks yesterday came in response to a plan by the Pingtung County Government to build anti-flood construction works over a river in the village of Wugoushui (五溝水) in Wanluan Township (萬巒), an area with a rich wetland ecology.
Environmentalists and lawmakers across party lines — including Tien, Chang, and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiu Wen-yen (邱文彥) — are worried that once the river banks are cemented over, the ecosystem will be -irreparably damaged and have said that such there should be an immediate stop to such environmentally destructive construction.
“Today, the government is constructing artificial wetlands across the country, so that people — especially those who live in the city — can learn more about wetland ecology,” former Environmental Protection Administration vice minister Chiu said. “It is ludicrous that we are destroying natural wetlands, while trying to build artificial wetlands.”
Although environmental groups have called for legislation to protect wetlands for a long time, the government had failed to embrace such proposals until yesterday.
Urban and Rural Development Branch Office Director Hung Chia-hung (洪嘉宏), who attended the press conference, said his office is currently drafting a wetlands act, which he said should be completed and submitted to the legislature for further review later this year.