Thu, Mar 19, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Penghu scraps disputed Dacang cultural project

ECOLOGICAL COSTS:The development project has drawn heavy criticism for bypassing an environmental impact assessment and for its NT$1 billion price tag

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Penghu has decided to scrap the controversial Dacang Cultural Park project, Penghu County Commissioner Chen Kuang-fu (陳光復) said on Tuesday, adding that existing structures might be converted into more environmentally friendly facilities.

“The entire development plan spans more than 18 hectares and therefore must undergo an environmental impact assessment. If it is eventually rejected, all the construction would have to be demolished. I do not think the financial loss is something the Penghu County Government can afford,” Chen said after a meeting with residents on Dacang Island (大倉島).

The Dacang Cultural Park, the centerpiece of the project, would feature a 48m bronze statue of the goddess Matsu, attached to an 18m-high base that would function as an exhibition hall.

The project, which aimed to boost tourism, was proposed and passed last year by the previous administration. It drew heavy criticism from Penghu residents for bypassing an environmental impact assessment and public hearings.

Apart from the 4.96-hectare park, the development plan includes a dock expansion and sea lane deepening project to accommodate ferries, a hotel complex and several recreational areas, making the overall scope of the project about equivalent to the size of the island, Chen said.

Local environmental activists objected to the plan, saying that increased marine traffic would pollute the island’s waters and endanger dozens of coral species, as well as encroach on residents’ living space.

A poll conducted by the county government showed that 55 percent of Penghu residents disapproved of the plan, while only 25 percent were in favor of it, prompting Chen to order that construction of the park be suspended last month.

Chen said that the whole project would cost at least NT$1 billion (US$31.6 million), imposing a hefty financial burden on Penghu, whose tax revenue averages about NT$200 million (US$ 6.34 million) annually.

Asked about possible alternatives to the project, Chen said the nearly completed base could be transformed into more eco-friendly attractions; for example, a revolving restaurant, an observatory, or be used for LED building projections.

“Since Dacang Island is located at the heart of the ring of the outlying islands of Penghu, these would be ideal options to reinvent the structure, as people will be able to spot it from Magong City,” he said.

The reinvented site would likely be run in the form of a rehabilitate-operate-transfer project, in which case his administration would call for bids; otherwise, the county government would reclaim the site, he said.

In addition, the county government hopes to accept tenders to set up bed-and-breakfasts in a mountainous area next to the site, he said.

“Hopefully, these renovations will help bring more tourists to Dacang, while conforming to the ideals of eco-friendliness,” Chen said.

The county government will also consider the selling the Matsu statute to a private enterprise or to Taichung, where a park dedicated to the goddess is under construction, to minimize ensuing losses from the ending of the project.

“The statue consists of 613 bronze pieces, which have all been molded. It will be completed once the pieces are put together,” he added.

Environmentalists expressed their approval of the county government’s decision to drop the project.

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