Environmental Testimony: Taiwan Mega-Complex Threatens Endangered Spoonbills And Efforts To Cut Greenhouse Gases, UD Prof Says

June 12, 1998

Photo available at: http://www.udel.edu/PR/NewsReleases/98/Spoonbill/bird.html

A 7,000-acre industrial complex planned for the west coast of Taiwan threatens the black-faced spoonbill with extinction and will increase greenhouse gas emissions, according to a University of Delaware professor who recently testified before a Taiwanese legislative committee.

John Byrne, director of UD's Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, told the committee that the oil refinery, petrochemical plant and steel mill complex could wipe out the wetlands winter habitat of the black-faced spoonbill. The Binnan Industrial Complex also could increase that nation's greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 percent, Byrne testified. And, any development resulting in higher greenhouse gas emissions would place Taiwan in direct conflict with the international community, which is trying to meet Kyoto (Japan) treaty targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to Byrne.

"Taiwan is the 24th largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the world," Byrne says, "and with its emissions already growing at one of the fastest rates in the world, the Binnan project places in serious jeopardy the ability of the country to meet international standards. It is the wrong technology, in the wrong place, at the wrong time."

Byrne and four other U.S. academics-members of a group called SAVE (Spoonbill Action Voluntary Echo)-testified that the water needed to feed the massive complex will deplete marshlands where the spoonbill nests and forages for fish. SAVE calculates the spoonbill population at 550 worldwide. Approximately 300 use Taiwan's Chi-gu Lagoon to nest and feed during the winter, he adds.

Advocates of the proposed Binnan Industrial Complex say it would offer employment and economic benefits, given a projected annual production value equivalent to about $10.5 billion. Byrne contends, however, that the serious ecological consequences of the development would far outweigh any potential benefits, in part because the project would "add nearly 28 million tons of carbon to the national annual releases"-an increase of 25 percent over 1990 levels.

Moreover, SAVE members testified that construction of two dams needed to supply the petrochemical complex with water would flood two aboriginal villages displacing thousands. Toxins from plant run-off could damage Chi-gu fisheries and oyster beds.

A final decision on the project is expected this summer.

The UD Center for Energy and Environmental Policy (CEEP) conducts interdisciplinary research on energy policy, environmental policy and sustainable development. The center has collaborative research and exchange agreements with Asian, African, Latin American and European universities and research institutes.

Efforts described in this news release were supported by CEEP research and SAVE: <http://www4.ced.berkeley.edu:8004/student_org/save/index.htm>.

REPORTERS: Call for a copy of Byrne's testimony.

University of Delaware

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