An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) assembly yesterday afternoon conditionally approved a build-operate-transfer (BOT) resort project in Nantou, despite protests earlier in the day by Thao Aborigines, who argued that the project would occupy their traditional land near Sun Moon Lake (日月潭).
Late last month, when the project gained approval during an ad hoc EIA meeting, a number of representatives of the Thao people voiced their objections, saying that the approval of the project contravened the Aboriginal Basic Act (原住民基本法), as the developers did not consult the Thao Aborigines and gain their consent in advance.
In protests on Ketagalan Boulevard and later in front of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) in Taipei yesterday, protesters, in traditional Thao clothing, called on the EIA to reject the project with protest banners that read: “Protect Aboriginal homeland, stop the plunder,” “Rescue the Thao, reject the BOT project” and “Return our land, the Nantou Government is repressing the Thao.”
Thao National Council chairman Banu Bagamumu said that they are angry with the developer for reporting to the Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area Administration that the tribe members agreed to the project in an information session with residents living near Sun Moon Lake, and that the agency did not even confirm with Thao tribe members before reporting to the previous EIA meeting.
“The Thao tribe has the smallest population among the Aborigines in Taiwan, yet the government still represses it by robbing it of its land and resources,” said Taiwan First Nations Party founding chairman Runquan Lhkatafatu, a Thao, adding that they are against the project and refuse to accept promised employment positions at the resort.
They restated that the area surrounding Sun Moon Lake is the Thao’s traditional territory and that the Thao culture and living restoration park promised by the central government in 2008 should be built, adding that the BOT resort project review should be halted until it gains consent from the tribe members.
During the EIA general assembly meeting, several representatives of the protestors blocked the projector screen when the developer made its report, in an attempt to stop the meeting.
However, the EIA committee members still decided to give conditional approval to the project through a voting session late in the afternoon.