Tue, May 14, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Chiayi denies solar panels driving away endangered birds

Staff writer, with CNA

A government plan to install solar panels near a coastal wetland would not affect the natural habitat of endangered winter migratory birds, the Chiayi County Government said on Sunday in response to a report claiming the plan was driving birds away.

The solar panels would not be installed within the legally defined boundary of the Budai Salt Pan Wetlands (布袋鹽田濕地), as the area and surrounding salt fields are an important habitat of the endangered black-faced spoonbill, the county’s Agriculture Department deputy head Lee Chien-lin (李建霖) said.

A meeting with the Ministry of the Interior and wetland experts determined that the panel installations would be limited to four plots of land — a total of 102 hectares — to preserve the birds’ natural habitat, Lee said.

The statement was released after the Chinese-language United Daily News reported that black-faced spoonbills are disappearing from the wetlands because of excavation and construction for the solar panel project.

The United Daily News quoted conservationists as saying that since excavators began digging up land to install the panels, spoonbill numbers have dwindled, as the birds have gone elsewhere in search of food.

The project is being developed in line with the country’s determination to promote green energy, with the land provided by the Ministry of Finance’s National Property Administration for development in collaboration with the county, the county government said in a statement.

However, the Chiayi Ecological Conservation Association questioned whether the county government is protecting the environment.

The association said it hoped that more people would show concern for the spoonbill and other migratory birds by protecting their wetland habitat.

There are only an estimated 4,463 black-faced spoonbills left in the world, and Taiwan offers them one of their biggest wintering sites, according to the Web site of the migratory waterbirds protection group East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership.

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