Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

Huben Fairy Pitta: courtesy of Richard Yu

Happy New Year,
and all the best for 2008 !

"Because every green measure, every conservation effort and all the little economies we could make in our daily lives, may look insignificant if we choose to look at the big picture. On the other hand, if we view that big picture as millions of little choices made by people just like us, that's how we can come to understand why it's our own choices that are so important."
A comment posted on Birdforum by James Owen.


"Because every green measure, every conservation effort and all the little economies we could make in our daily lives, may look insignificant if we choose to look at the big picture. On the other hand, if we view that big picture as millions of little choices made by people just like us, that's how we can come to understand why it's our own choices that are so important." A comment posted on Birdforum this morning by James Owen.

That was just what I really needed to hear this morning. Thanks, James ! It really puts the emission issue and conservation into a nutshell. It's all choices and how we go about our making choices is what it's all about.

2008 is all about choices. The choices that we make and how our choices will impact on our planet. Jame's comment was in a thread about a couple who are planning on a Big Year of birding. Jetting all over the world to try and notch up as many species as they can in a single year.

Big Years are trying to see as many species in a year as possible. Birders can do them locally, nationally and even internationally. Big Years aren't confined to birders only. It could be a Big year of cetaceans, mammals or even butterflies. The list is endless.

Birding Big Years can be very competitive and books such as Mark Obmascik's "The Big Year" will give one some insight into what a big Year is about. Big Years are what many birders dream about and I know I have. If we look at a Big Year, is it actually nothing more than vanity? Is it just selfless ambition? Well, I guess the choice is yours as to what to make of it.

I also came across this thread on Birdforum this morning, Doing a Bigby - Local Birding 2008, The Big Green Big Year. That sounded pretty good. A Green Big Year ! Doing it on foot locally or under your own steam on a bicycle, canoe or such like. Well, that sounded fun and I need the exercise so I signed up for that one. My Big Green Year in the Huben/Hushan IBA on pedal power.

Well back to choices. In today's Taipei Times the EPA calls on public to celebrate New Year's Eve with environment in mind. Your choice on letting off fireworks tonight and filling the neighbourhood with potassium, aluminum, magnesium, barium, lead, strontium, calcium, sodium, iron and zinc.... and scaring the hell out of the animals in the area.

Also, if you haven't voiced your concern to the Taiwan authorities over the Hushan Dam and the Taiwan pink dolphins, well, that's your choice. Letters helped to create the pressure needed to get the dolphins included in the environmental impact assessment process earlier this year. So often I hear people say we've got our own problems and we need to look at our home issues first. Fair enough, just remember the chances are that many if not all of the components in the computer you're using to read this now where made in Taiwan.

All the best for a Greener 2008 !

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Power firms sign emissions pact

On Friday ten private and public power companies signed voluntary agreements with the government to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 12 million tonnes by 2015. Hopefully this is a sign of better things to come. Environmentalists have expressed concerns and understandably so. Taiwan hasn't really shown a desire to cut back emissions to early to mid 1990s levels at all. Talk has focused around 2005 levels and at best the 2000 level. For a country with a per capita emissions rate of three times the world average these proposals by the government and industry just don't make the grade and this isolationist type of thinking poses a real risk of internationally isolating Taiwan further as an emissions bandit as the nations of the world try and clean up.

Taiwan is developing industry that is going to increase the nation's CO2 emissions. Saying that a planned coal power plant that is going to be built was going to use 'technology a' and now it will be built using 'technology b' and that will save 'X' in emissions doesn't get around the fact that the coal power plant is going to be built and it is going to increase emissions.

A real effort to reduce power consumption needs to be made. A change in the nature of future planned industries needs to be considered and the need to change to more environmentally friendly and responsible industry needs to become the focus. Hushan Dam, Dadu Weir, more power plants, steel mills, and plastic plants are not the responsible way forward. Dressing up development that is going to increase greenhouse gas emissions is just greenwashing and sooner or later it will be exposed for what it is.

Also see: MOEA says emissions reduced at 4 local power plants

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dadu Weir Project Public Explanation Meeting Report

Taiwan Academy of Ecology protesting before the meeting over the diversion of water resources for industry, including private enterprises, by the water resources agencies and endangering the livelihoods of the Taiwanese people and the survival of the humpback dolphins.

Water resources official calls Dadu River without a dam “a waste”

On Thursday 20 December a meeting was held in the Town Hall of Hemei Township, Changhua County, to allow concerned parties to hear about why the Dadu River should be dammed and over a fifth of its water diverted for industrial use in Changbin Industrial Park and Yunlin Offshore Industrial Park. Repeat meetings were held that afternoon in Changbin Industrial Park Service Centre and the following morning in Dacheng Township.

The Dadu River (= Wu River) is the sixth largest river in Taiwan’s and a major source of fresh water for Taiwan’s west coast ecosystems. It feeds the Dadu Wetlands, which were previously listed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as being one of Asia’s four major wetlands*. In addition, the Eastern Taiwan Strait (ETS) Humpback Dolphins (Sousa chinensis), which occur in the shallow coastal waters along the west coast of Taiwan from the Tongsiao River estuary in Miaoli County to Taisi in Yunlin County, have been sighted in the Dadu River estuary. Reduced freshwater flow into estuaries such as Dadu was identified at the 2nd ETS Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin workshop in September this year as being one of five major threats to the population. Any diversion or impoundment of rivers flowing out to the west coast could, therefore, increase the level of threat of extinction of the population.

At this stage of the planning process, what was presented to the public at the meetings on the 20th and 21st was what is called the “Dadu Weir Feasibility Plan.” Projects subject to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) are presented to the public and to official review bodies in various forms, including “feasibility plans” such as this, and “Environmental Statements” (ESs) such as those presented to the EPA’s EIA Review Commission. Although the system has the potential to allow all parties to be fully informed of the costs and benefits of a project, it is frequently the case that variation in the sets of documents prepared for review by (and made available to) different stakeholders means that the whole picture is never presented, thereby limiting public participation and the effectiveness of the review process.

On Thursday, in addition to presentations by representatives from Sinotech Engineering Consultants Ltd. and the Central Region Water Resources Office , a simple flier containing maps, photos and a basic explanation of the purpose and advantages of the project was provided to interested members of the public, along with a blank comment sheet. The Public Explanation Meeting and the comment sheet are formalities required by Taiwan’s EIA regulations. Comments provided by the public are supposed to be included in further reports and considered in the further planning stages.

The meeting began with a broad explanation of the project. This included technical aspects, financial costs, benefits to society, the project timescale, compensation for land acquisition, flood control, environmental impacts, funds for environmental enhancement, dust-reduction strategies and prevention of burst pipes. As is customary, vital details were missed out, but members of the audience supplemented much of what had been left out or prompted the presenters for more information.

According to Sinotech, preparatory work, construction and operation tests will span a period of six years from January 2009 to December 2014 and involve an estimated cost to the public of NTD 26.8 billion (USD 824 million). The project is designed to meet the future needs of central western Taiwan’s Changbin and Yunlin Industrial Parks. However, as pointed out by the head of the Central Region Water Resources Office Mr. Jiang Ming-lang (江明郎), it only seems as if the project is targeted towards providing for industry. In actual fact, he said, “if we can satisfy industrial water needs, industry will not need to extract ground water. If they don’t extract ground water, they won’t need to compete with the people [for water resources]. So in the end, although the recipient is industry and not the public, and although it looks like this has nothing to do with the public, industry will no longer need to extract groundwater and so the people will benefit and industry can continue to develop.”

However, as pointed out a member of the audience during the question and answer session, if the water is to be used to meet the expanding future needs of industry for greater water supplies, it will not replace an existing source of industrial water (e.g. ground water) but will rather constitute an additional source of industrial water, doing nothing to address the continuing conflict between water resource users.

Arguments that river impoundment will help mitigate water resource disputes, land subsidence and saltwater intrusion have been used to promote other projects such as the Hushan Dam in Yunlin County (currently under construction), which is also designed to supply water for further development of Yunlin Offshore Industrial Park and hence faces similar criticism. A major concern is that agriculture will lose out to industry as more water is channeled directly to the industrial parks, depleting groundwater resources and failing to produce the glowing win-win results consistently promised by proponents.

Concerns were also raised by members of the public about potential impacts of the river diversion on the Dadu Estuary Wildlife Refuge. Sinotech claimed that impacts on the Refuge have already been minimized by setting the route of the water pipes along the path of an existing road. Also, because the water level would be raised rather than water being directly extracted from the river as happens in some river diversion projects, impacts on the environment would be “minimized”.

However, a deeper concern of many in the audience was the impact of reduced freshwater flow to the estuary. If the plan goes ahead, an estimated daily volume of eight hundred thousand tons of water will be diverted for industrial use, with around six hundred thousand of that being piped south to Yunlin Offshore Industrial Park. The Sinotech speaker said that after extraction there would still be nearly three million tons per day of water flowing to the estuary, which was “a lot” and therefore the removal of eight hundred thousand tons of water per day would “not impact on downstream reaches”.

If Sinotech’s figures are taken to be correct, however, 8 hundred thousand tons makes up over a fifth of the river’s flow. Several members of the audience expressed concern that little or no explanation was being provided as to how the developers had come to the conclusion that the Refuge would not be negatively impacted by this substantial loss of fresh water input.

As for the ETS humpback dolphins, the developers steered clear of the issue in their presentations, and it was once again members of the Matsu’s Fish Conservation Union (MFCU) who raised it. Indeed, the message that resounded after the presentations was that delivered repeatedly and passionately by Mr. Jiang – that leaving the Dadu River without a dam (making it the only major river in the central region without one) would be a “waste”. Of course it is true that all that “extra” water could be flowing into a petrochemical factory or a steel plant to be heated up and contaminated, rather than directly to the sea. However, this overlooks the innumerable uses to which the plants and animals of the west coast are already putting that water - if the river is indeed incomplete without a dam, one wonders what the Dadu River estuary will be without its fish, birds and humpback dolphins.

Due to the efforts first of FormosaCetus and then other members of the Matsu’s Fish Conservation Union (MFCU), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) proceedings started to include some consideration of the dolphins in 2005. Now, while the Environmental Statement (ESs) produced for some projects might not mention the existence of the population, participation by the MFCU in EIA meetings has led to subsequent versions of some ESs including a paragraph or two on what is known about the dolphins’ distribution. However, these ESs do not generally address the likely impacts on the population, nor do they include the dolphins in any monitoring plans or mitigation strategies.

* Taiwanese official documents claim that Dadu was listed by the IUCN as one of Asia's four major wetlands. We have asked the IUCN to confirm this but no response has been received to date.

Dadu Weir Public Explanation Meetings

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bali climate talks nearly melt down

Another emissions related article appearing in the Taiwan papers today.
See: Bali climate talks nearly melt down in today's China Post.

Government to reduce CO2 emissions in Taiwan to 2000 levels

The world's dirtiest power plant. Wuchi Power Plant, Taichung, through the haze.

The Government says it will reduce CO2 emissions in Taiwan to 2000 levels but is this enough? According to the Cabinet's chief technology adviser, Lee Yuan-tseh, the government will seek to reduce the annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in Taiwan to year 2000 levels by 2025. This means that the government needs to cut current greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 40 percent.

The desire to reduce CO2 levels is good and we applaud that. However, the Taiwan government and EPA haven't exactly got a good track record when it comes to reducing emissions so naturally environmentalists remain sceptical. It's really time for the government and its agencies like the EPA to put the money where their mouth is and do something to demonstrate their sincerity in reducing emissions.

In 1998, the National Energy Conference reached a temporary agreement under which the government would aim to reduce CO2 emissions in the country to year 2000 levels by 2020. This clearly hasn't been happening nor has there ever been a serious effort to do so. Taiwan has the single largest CO2 emitting power plant on the planet. Taiwan's per capita CO2 emissions are three times the world average. We've watched controversial projects of dubious legality such as the Hushan Dam Project steamrolled through the EIA process. These projects are linked to the development of heavy-polluting industry on Taiwan's west coast. These are developments that will raise the country's alarmingly high emissions level even higher. Hushan Dam, a project that is trashing an internationally designated Important Bird Area (IBA) and destroying globally the most important breeding area for the Fairy Pitta is going ahead to meet the water demands of more planned heavy industry. The resulting reduction in the flow of freshwater into the Jhoushui River Estuary will have dire consequences for Taiwan's extremely vulnerable and unique population of humpback dolphin and will degrade critically important waterbird habitat in Dacheng Wetlands, another internationally designated IBA.

If the government is serious about reducing Taiwan's greenhouse gas levels then in the words of Cheng I-chin of the Taiwan Environmental Action Network (TEAN) "The government must reconsider building these monstrosities that would make us international outcasts in the fight against carbon emission reduction."

See Taiwan to push for reduction of CO2 emissions in the Taiwan News.

On a happier note. A more possitive story from today's Taipei Times:
EPA launches campaign to promote 'green hotels'

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Season Greetings

A Merry Christmas to all !

Bali conference allowed the world to go to work on the climate ?

See today's Taipei Times, Bali conference allowed the world to go to work on the climate.

Also in today's news the [Taiwan] Atomic Energy Council (AEC) says the Energy crisis could save first nuclear plant.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Emission coverage continues

As the Taiwan media continues its coverage of the CO2 emissions issue we'll continue to link to some of the articles because of their relevalce to both the Taiwan humpback dolphins and the Hushan Dam issues.

See 'Low carb' life can keep Taiwan cool and EPA selects 32 finalists in poster contest to promote carbon emission reductions in today's Taipei Times.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

EPA to unveil plan for global body next month

Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Minister Winston Dang says the EPA will present a comprehensive plan next month to push for the establishment of a World Environment Organization (WEO). See today's Taipei Times for details.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Australia's first Fairy Pitta and a winter sighting on Borneo

Wintering records for the Fairy Pitta remain few and far between. It is generally suggested that the species most likely winters on Borneo but in reality researchers know little and most will admit to this being more of an educated guess.

Interestingly, a Fairy Pitta recently showed up in northern Australia. The bird was thought to be a Blue-winged Pitta at one point but has since been confirmed to indeed be Australia's first Fairy Pitta. Blue-winged Pitta are recorded as a vagrant to NW Australia. Click here, here and here for some photos and here and here for some info.

Also, a Fairy Pitta was photographed by a person named Yeo on Borneo at the Matang Wildlife Centre, Kubah National Park of Sarawak, Eastern Malaysia on 11 November 2007. We have seen two photos and the bird is a Fairy Pitta but we are still awaiting further details of the sighting.

Fairy Pitta wintering area mystery continues

Search for the Fairy Pitta wintering area

'Green' action cannot wait for US

See Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU) Chair, Gloria Hsu's letter, "'Green' action cannot wait for US" in today's Taipei Times. Gloria urges Taiwan not to drag it's feet on cutting emissions and says that waiting for the US isn't an excuse for Taiwan not to act.

Also see:
Left out of the UN, decisions are made for us

Lee urges candidates to address issue of emissions

Government urged to take action on emissions

Taiwan must abide by international rules on greenhouse gas emissions: EPA

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Emissions talk continues

Hushan, globally the most important breeding area for the rare and vulnerable Fairy Pitta being destroyed to build a dam to supply water for more planned heavy pollution-generating industry in a country which has a per capita CO2 emissions rate three times the world average. The dam will also degrade the remaining habitat of the endangered Taiwan humpback dolphins by reducing the flow of freshwater into the Jhoushui Estuary.

Talk over Taiwan's CO2 emissions continues. From the standpoint that Taiwan needs to be a UN member to really reduce its emissions to Nobel laureate Lee Yuan-tseh urging presidential candidates to aim at stabilizing CO2 emissions by 2025 at the level it was at in 2000. Environmental Quality Protection Foundation Chairman Liu Ming-lung said he supports Lee's idea of stabilizing Taiwan's CO2 emissions at the 2000 level by 2025 but added that when setting goals to reduce carbon emissions, stricter targets are not necessarily good because it might result in negative economic growth.

According to Taiwan's Department of Health Taiwan was ranked 22nd in the world in terms of total CO2 emissions in 2005. That is unacceptable to the health of the people of Taiwan and all life that we share Taiwan with. On that reason alone something drastic should be done. Stabilizing Taiwan's CO2 emissions at 2000 levels isn't enough and using the UN card as an excuse to act doesn't help the people of Taiwan. The whole world needs to change and so does Taiwan. If we don't, then nature will change us. Do we really want to build more dams and factories to further pollute our environment, destroy our health and drive species like the Taiwan humpback dolphins and numerous others over the brink into extinction?

"Many of us wonder whether human beings, one of ten million or more species on earth, have the right to destroy such a large proportion of what are as far as we know our only living companions in the universe." Ed Wilson & Paul Erlich

Left out of the UN, decisions are made for us

Lee urges candidates to address issue of emissions

Also see:
Government urged to take action on emissions

Taiwan must abide by international rules on greenhouse gas emissions: EPA

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Government urged to take action on emissions

Another article urging Taiwan to take action on against its high level of CO2 emissions. See Government urged to take action on emissions in the Taiwan News. Taiwan's per capita CO2 emissions are the highest in Asia and at 12 metric tons of CO2 annually per person it's three times the global average of 4 tons per person. Recently Nature magazine named Taiwan's Wuchi power plant in Taichung as the world's highest CO2 emitting coal-fired power plant. Taiwan seems to be forging ahead with developing more heavy industry that will substantially raise the country's level of CO2 emissions. This development will also directly impact very negatively on Taiwan's unique and extremely vulnerable humpback dolphins and many other Red List species which include the Fairy Pitta of Hushan.

Also see Taiwan must abide by international rules on greenhouse gas emissions: EPA

Taiwan's Wuchi Power Plant - the world's dirtiest

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dadu Weir Public Explanation Meetings

The Dadu River Estuary

The Central Region Water Resources Office of the Water Resources Agency will be holding three Public Explanation Meetings on the 20th and 21st December (see below) in the Changhua area for the feasibility/planning of the proposed Dadu Weir which would reduce the flow of freshwater into the Dadu (Tatu) estuary. The "Matsu's Fish Conservation Union" will be holding a protest to coincide with the Public Explanation Meetings to raise awareness of the negative impact that the Dadu Weir would have on the unique and extremely vulnerable Taiwan humpback dolphins by reducing the flow of freshwater into the Dadu estuary and how this project will supply water to further develop Taiwan's heavy industry in a country where the per capita CO2 emissions are the highest in Asia and no meaningful plan seems to exist to try and reduce these emission levels.

Developers notice:
"Dadu Weir Project Feasibility Plan” Local Public Explanation Meeting

1. Premise for the Meeting

The Wu River catchment has plentiful water resources and is the main source of water for the Central Region [of Taiwan]. However, because the downstream reaches are polluted by municipal waste the water is of poor quality and the rate of water resource use is low.

The Water Resources Agency of the Ministry of Economic Affairs once planned to build Guosing and Jianmin Reservoirs in the upstream reaches of the Wu River, neither of which went ahead because of many factors. After considering the critical nature of the water resources situation in the Changhua/Yunlin area and the needs of future industrial development, the Central Region Water Resources Office of the Water Resources Agency took precautions and devised the “Dadu Weir Feasibility Plan” [大度攔河堰可行性規劃] in order to use the Wu River resources effectively, suggesting that the priority be to develop Dadu Weir to provide 800 000 tons of water a day industrial use, 300 000 tons per day of which would be supplied to Changbin Industrial Park, with the remaining 500 000 tons per day and Jiji Weir on the Jhuoshuei River to be used together to supply industrial water to Yunlin Offshore Industrial Park.

The estimated cost for the “Dadu Feasibility Plan” project is about 26.8 billion New Taiwanese Dollars. It is planned that in 2009 and 2010 the project will be designed and land acquired, and estimated that in 2011 work will start, and that in 2014 it will be finished, providing sufficient water for industrial use. In addition to promoting industrial development, this can also reduce groundwater extraction, to alleviate the problem of continued ground subsidence.

2. Basis and Purpose for the Meeting

According to Article 10 Item 1 of the EPA’s Standards for Environmental Impact Assessment of Development Activities [開發行為環境影響評估作業準則], before a developer makes and delivers its Environmental Statement to the EPA for review, it must hold at meeting to allow the public to participate and express their opinions.


20.12.2007 10am: Hemei Township, main auditorium on the 4th floor of the town hall.
20.12.2007 2pm: Changbin Industrial Park Service Centre Briefing Room.
21.12.2007 10am Dacheng Township Town Hall 3rd floor Big Meeting Room.

Taiwan must abide by international rules on greenhouse gas emissions: EPA

Wuchi Power Plant, Taichung. The world's greatest CO2 emittions coal power plant

In the wake of the Bali Conference Taiwan's Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Deputy Minister Chang Feng-teng has said that the nation's most urgent environmental issue is to follow international guidelines on greenhouse gas emission controls. Is this just more empty words from the government or are they really going to do something this time?

Taiwan is arguably the third highest per capita CO2 emitter on the planet. With projects like the Hushan Dam going ahead and others like the Dadu weir (consultation to take place 19-20 December)set to follow in order to supply the water needs for more planned heavy pollution-generating industry one wonders how on earth Taiwan is going to be able to follow international guidelines on greenhouse gas emission controls? The recent track record of Taiwan's EPA doesn't inspire confidence that the EPA has any real commitment to reducing CO2 emissions.

In the words of Cheng I-chin of the Taiwan Environmental Action Netwok (TEAN)"The government must reconsider building these monstrosities that would make us international outcasts in the fight against carbon emission reduction."

See: Taiwan must abide by international rules on greenhouse gas emissions: EPA in today's Taipei Times.

Taiwan's Wuchi Power Plant - the world's dirtiest

Taiwan's coal power plant at Wuchi, Taichung being named by Nature magazine (Vol 450/15 November 2007, p 327:- Graphic detail Countries with highest CO2-emitting power sectors, Tonnes per year) as producing the largest amount of CO2 emissions of any power plant on the planet prompted a member of the environmental impact assessment commission that is reviewing a private power plant project in eastern Taiwan to write an article that appeared in the local press. Our heart goes out to those few commissioners of conscience who try and raise the real issues while participating in the window dressing exercises of Taiwan's Environmental Protection Agency/Developer/Elected Representative clique. We have created an incredible nearly unstoppable pollution generation monster through a simple, three-step process:

1) Privatize energy generation, but keep distribution with the state-owned Taiwan Power Company

2) Taiwan Power is legally required to buy all energy generated, regardless of need

3) Keep the people in the dark as to where the money and energy are going and as to the true costs

Sixty years of isolation under the Chinese KMT rule and for the last eight years under the Taiwanese DPP rule, are taking their toll.

See: CO2 for Taiwan pollution forever

Also see:
Taiwan Power Plant Tops in Carbon Output, Group Says

Monday, December 17, 2007

The environment must come first

As the world's eyes have been on Bali, take a moment to consider that Taiwan isn't there. Consider that Taiwan ranks amongst the highest per capita CO2 emitters on the planet but the world's not talking to them. See the Taipei Times's editorial "The environment must come first."

More animal rights or just more talk?

On Friday the legislature overhauled the Animal Protection Act. This is indeed a good step in the right direction but given that Taiwan's previous legislation on animal protection wasn't that lax one asks if this was just another case of window dressing. The real test will be to see if it gets enforced. While they're talking about animal protection how about something more for Taiwan's pittas and pink dolphins?

See: Lawmakers pass overhaul of law on animal rights

The 17th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals

We've just returned from the 17th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals held in Cape Town, South Africa. The conference offered on opportunity to help raise international awareness of the plight of the Taiwan humpback dolphins and other related Taiwan issues like the Hushan Dam project. We'll be posting more on the conference shortly.

See, Cape Argus: Loss of 'goddess' a grave warning sign