Environmentalists slam government over reform

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Wed, May 29, 2013 - Page 4

Environmental protection groups yesterday criticized the government’s plan to establish a forestry bureau in the new Ministry of Agriculture instead of the new Ministry of Environmental Resources, saying the decision may cause more than 200,000 hectares of forest to become over-exploited.

Lu Yi-chi (呂翊齊), a member of Citizens of the Earth, Taiwan, said that after more than 10 years of discussions about the division of departments in the government reform plan, the government decided to gather all the departments that manage mountains, rivers, forests and soil into the Ministry of Environmental Resources.

This would solve the current difficulties of making policies related to mountainous areas, as mountain areas are governed by separate authorities with contradicting goals, Lu said

However, the Council of Agriculture is now planning to separate the current Forestry Bureau into two parts: one for governing forest conservation that would belong to the new Ministry of Environmental Resources and the other for governing forestation and forestry production that would belong to the new Ministry of Agriculture, the groups said.

They expressed concern that the new decision would not address the problem of contradictory policies and could put at risk more than 200,000 hectares of forestland that would be managed by the forestation and forestry production departments.

The nation’s forestland is already over-exploited, and according to the Soil and Water Conservation Bureau’s statistics, there are about 12,600 hectares of mountainous areas being illegally used, the group said, adding that areas of Nantou County, Chiayi County and Greater Taichung were most at risk.

Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association general secretary Lynn Lin (林子凌) said that mountains, rivers, forests and soil are all interconnected, and only when forests are protected can water and soil be adequately protected.

If the government makes further development in these areas legal, it could threaten the nation’s conservation efforts, Lin said.

In response, the Forestry Bureau said it had not changed its plan to put its environmental resources-related departments into the Ministry of Environmental Resources.