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Environmentalists angered by plan to install generators on wetland

2019/02/18 21:25:22

Kaohsiung, Feb. 18 (CNA) Members of several environmental protection groups and a wild bird association staged a protest in front of Kaohsiung City Hall Monday over a plan to install natural gas-fired power generators in a wetland area that is a winter habitat and rest area for migratory birds.

The protesters, including members of the Citizens of the Earth, the Meinung People's Association, Wetlands Taiwan and the Kaohsiung Wild Bird Society, held banners reading "Save the Air, Protect the Wetlands," while chanting slogans such as "the Hsinta Power Plant should be decommissioned earlier than scheduled," and "Preserve Yongan's largest wetland."

State-run Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower) plans to build a new facility on land close to the Yongan Wetland -- which was designated as an important bird and biodiversity area by BirdLife International in 1999 -- to accommodate three natural gas-fired power generators.

The new generators are scheduled to be inaugurated in 2023 to replace the first and second coal-fired generators at the Hsinta Power Plant, Taiwan's third-largest thermal power plant after the Taichung and Datan plants, according to Hsinta deputy chief Hsu Chia-hao (許家豪).

The plan, however, has drawn strong opposition from local environmentalists who contend that the polluting generators should be decommissioned before the end of this year to make space for the new generators.

Citizens of the Earth, Taiwan deputy executive director Wang Min-ling (王敏玲) suggested that the first two of four coal-fired generators at the Hsinta plant should be decommissioned in November, when their coal permits will expire, and that the remaining two generators should be temporarily shut down every autumn and winter.

Echoing Wang, Meinung People's Association honorary president Liu Hsiao-shen (劉孝伸) said that using the storage site for the coal used to fuel the aging generators would be the best way to avoid damage to the wetland once the generators are decommissioned.

Lin Kun-hai (林昆海) of the Kaohsiung Wild Bird Society urged Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) to see the value of the Yongan Wetland after 175 black-faced spoonbills were spotted resting there last week, a record high for the protected migratory bird's presence in the southern Taiwan wetland.

He asked Han to send high-ranking city officials to a planned environmental assessment meeting on Tuesday for the Hsinta Power Plant renewal project in a bid to prevent the wetland from being destroyed.

In response, Hsu told CNA that the new generators will not be built on the wetland but on an area of salt marsh. He also contended that although Hsinta's first and second coal-fired generators are old and outmoded, their operations meet the country's air pollution control regulations.

Meanwhile, Taipower also said it has kept the wetland out of the power plant renewal plan. It further stressed that it shares the stance of the environmental protection groups regarding the need to protect the wetland and maintain air quality.

(By Wang Shwu-fen and Elizabeth Hsu)