The legislature yesterday enacted the Wetlands Conservation Act (濕地保育法), which requires developers to avoid wetlands, reduce their environmental impact on such areas, restore wetlands off-site and establish an ecological compensation mechanism for wetland development projects.
Article 5 of the act requires local authorities and businesses to preserve and manage wetlands according to “wise use” principles and to comply with the policy of “no net loss” of wetland surface area.
The law defines wetlands as areas of marine water whose depth does not exceed 6m at low tide. The Ministry of the Interior has listed 82 wetlands nationwide.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiu Wen-yen (邱文彥) said the passage of the law brought the nation’s wetland regulations in line with the intergovernmental Convention on Wetlands signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971.
The two phrases in Article 5 were taken directly from the Ramsar Convention, Chiu said.
“Wise use” of wetlands means that wetland conservation need not exclude the human element, but rather make human use a promoting factor for the sustainable management of wetlands, while the “no net loss” policy requires developers who fill in wetlands to restore old wetlands or create new ones in their place, he said.
Following controversial plans to turn the wetlands in Taipei’s Nangang District (南港) into a biotech research center and to build a petrochemical complex on the Dacheng Wetlands (大城濕地) in Changhua County, both of which were halted following public opposition in 2010 and 2011, environmentalists pushed for the legislation over concerns that more wetlands were being designated for development.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) praised the efforts of civic environmentalists to solicit support from cross-party lawmakers for the act.
The passage of the law was the first-ever bottom-up legislation in Taiwan’s history of environmental protection, Lin Shu-fen said.
Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association secretary-general Lynn Lin (林子凌), an initiator of the act, said it was an important step forward in wetlands protection.
About 90 percent of the act meets demands by environmentalists, but some of their views were not incorporated, for example, implementing a mechanism to allow the purchase of wetland habitats by trusts to save the areas from destruction, she said.
The act set up regulations governing activities within or adjacent to wetlands, including applications for permission to engage in activities in the areas and monetary contributions to provide a fund dedicated to wetlands conservation.
Based on the “wise use” principle and “no net loss” policy, the act allows oyster farmers and fishermen to continue to operate in wetlands, but their activities would be subject to conservation measures, Lin Shu-fen said.