Reef preservation efforts bearing fruit, bureau says

The Council of Agriculture’s Forestry Bureau said it is committed to facilitating cooperation between central and local authorities to protect algal reefs as it on Monday publicized the results of joint preservation efforts to protect algal reefs in Taoyuan County that cover a 27 km area along the county’s shoreline and date back more than 7,000 years.

The bureau said that on April 15, it declared the area in which the reefs grow a major wildlife habitat, and launched a community forestry project that trains tour guides to raise the awareness about the reefs, as well as setting up a patrol as part of the project to step up preservation measures for the reefs.

Taoyuan County Government listed the area of reefs as a wildlife conservation area on July 7 because of its rich biodiversity, and between April 2012 and August it filed lawsuits against 704 companies out of the 3,282 it has inspected for carrying out projects in the conservation area, after which 15 plants were ordered to suspend their work, five had illicit revenues amounting to NT$9.55 million (US$318,300) confiscated and five were indicted by the Taoyuan District Prosecutors’ Office.

To control wastewater discharged into the area, the county government launched the Night Owl Special Project, which focused on monitoring industrial wastewater dumped during the night and found 738 violators among the 5,123 factories probed.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs has also laid out plans that require factories identified to have engaged in abnormal activities while discharging wastewater to improve their processing measures by December and complete wastewater processing mechanisms no later than July next year.

However, Taoyuan Local Union director-general Pan Chong-cheng (潘忠政) said he was not impressed with the bureau’s accomplishments, describing the move as a “fig leaf” aimed at covering up the embarrassing aspects of the authorities’ policy enforcement.

He said that the bureau and the county government have not yet uttered a word of reproach since Oriental Petrochemical (Taiwan) Co, a member of the Far Eastern Group, was found on Aug. 6 to have excavated an area of algal reefs to accommodate a temporary dock for heavy machinery.

Referring to an incident that took place in 2007, in which the reefs were partly destroyed by Taichung Power Plant during the installation of a fuel pipeline, he said the recent incident was a carbon copy of the previous one.

“Was the incident seven years ago not harsh enough a lesson? Yet, the authorities allowed the same thing to happen again. I therefore predict that there will be more such incidents,” Pan said.

He said his organization is asking local county councilor candidates to show their support and commitment to the preservation of the algal reefs via a signature event.

“I have faith in some of the younger candidates. This signature event serves as a bond that binds them to the cause of preserving the algal reefs after they get elected. I think some of those who are elected — if not all — will deliver on their promise and speak for the reefs at the council,” he said.


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