Thu, Jan 04, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Environmentalists criticize land planning bill

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Taiwan Water Resources Conservation Union director Jennifer Nien, right, criticizes the Council of Agriculture’s plan to relax forest conservation regulations during a news conference in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: CNA

Environmentalists yesterday accused the Forestry Bureau of attempting to demote protected state-owned land as part of the requirements imposed by the National Land Planning Act (國土計畫法), potentially leading to landslides and the destruction of forests due to construction projects.

The land development bill would involve demoting vast tracts of class 1 protected state-owned land to class 2 protected land, meaning that developers would be able to carry out construction projects in vast tracts of forests as long as they obtain the government’s permission, Taiwan Water Resources Protection Union director Jennifer Nien (粘麗玉) told a news conference in Taipei.

The bureau is attempting to exclude some forests from class 1 protected areas, she said, citing the results of a September 2016 survey by the bureau which said that only 5,150 hectares of land on 981,345 hectares of forested hills nationwide required protection, and that 90,881 hectares had yet to be surveyed.

The survey results are included in the bill drafted by the Ministry of the Interior, which leads Nien to believe that the bureau would lift the development ban on at least 100,000 hectares of forest should the bill be passed, she said.

Hsu Yu-hung (徐玉紅), an opponent of land expropriations in the construction of the National Taiwan Sport University Mass Rapid Transit Station, said she is against the bureau’s plan to ease the regulations, which would allow construction to be carried out in the catchment basins of hills with an incline of 30? or less.

The relaxing of regulations would exacerbate sedimentation in reservoirs, hurt soil and water conservation efforts, and increase the threat of landslides, Hsu said.

Taoyuan Local Union director-general Pan Chong-cheng (潘忠政) criticized the ministry for including the construction of a natural gas terminal in the bill, which states that the terminal is to be built “in an 232 hectare site in Taoyuan.”

The industrial park is located on a coast teeming with endangered algal reefs, which he has been trying to preserve for years, Pan said.

Even though the ministry did not explicitly say that it intends to build the terminal in Taoyuan’s Kuantang Industrial Park (觀塘工業區), the size of the “site” corresponds with the size of the industrial park, suggesting that Kuantang is the proposed construction site, he said.

The project is being reviewed after the Environmental Protection Administration in October last year rejected a request for a development permit for a failure to propose sufficient protection measures for corals and algal reefs in the waters near Taoyuan’s Datan area (大潭).

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國), who also attended the conference, called on Premier William Lai (賴清德) and Council of Agriculture Minister Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) to explain why the bureau has proposed demoting class 1 protection areas, saying that increased construction on hills and in forests would remove vegetation and displace soil, creating airborne particulates and worsening air pollution.

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