Government apathy over Orchid Island oil spill

Here’s a link to some pictures of the oil spill that’s polluted a 1 km stretch of coastline on tiny Orchid Island (there are links to two other pages of pictures halfway down the page):

The oil slick (dumped sometime last month from an unidentified passing ship) has ruined the coastline between the villages of Yeyou and Hongtou, including the area from which the fishermen in that area launch their canoes from. From the looks of it, the government is going to do next to nothing, and has dispatched only about twenty under-equipped workers to clean up the mess.

The head of Taiwan’s EPA, Chang Kuo-lung visited the island last month and basically said the gov’t will be content to let the oil disperse back into the ocean on its own–never mind the lasting effects it will have on the locals or their livelihoods. Other than the coast guard members, the villagers are now on their own to clean up the oil. Calls to help in clean up operations have been answered by elderly villagers and area middle school students.

Words cannot express my anger over this. After having been subjected to decades of exposure to radioactive waste the Tao aborigines of Orchid Island now have to deal with this. Although we don’t know who spilled the oil in the first place I would think the government would at least try to allocate some more resources for clean-up operations (then again,that might be wishing too much considering the bang-up job they did over the spill in Kenting a few years back). While the oil will eventually disperse in the end, the damage will remain on Orchid Island for a long time to come.

Not many votes on Orchid Island.

Pan-Green administration and pan-Blue aboriginals. Just like oil and water, no pun intended.

Where are Greenpeace or some of the other enviromental groups?
Looks like this should be right up their alley help-wise

Are there any active enviromental groups here on the island?

True about the votes, but you would think that Frank the Tank would at least try to make some good on the promise he made during his last trip to Orchid Island to “respect the development of the tribe [which] is very different from past methods.” Different, my ass.

Oddly enough, there is no Greenpeace in Taiwan. China, Japan, and the Philippines all have chapters, but not Taiwan. (Hmmm…)
There is a Taiwan Environmental Information Association ( which seems to be an alliance of environmentally focused NGOs (sorry I couldn’t find an English version of the site).

This is a sad case. Not that it makes a difference, but I don’t believe the govt’s non-action is because no one cares; I believe it’s due to the tremendous costs of doing a clean-up, the fact that the guilty party in this case is unidentified, so they can’t make them pay and would have to eat the costs themselves, and in particular, it’s due to the horrible outcome of the oil spill off of Kenting a few years ago and the fact that Taiwan got screwed in that lawsuit.

[quote]Taiwan has suffered a big defeat in a high-profile international lawsuit, with a Norwegian court yesterday ruling that no damages would be awarded for ecological destruction caused by an oil spill near Kenting in 2001.
The ruling said Taiwan will receive only NT$9.53 million (US$295,000) for miscellaneous fees relating to environmental monitoring in 2001 and 2002. The court declared that no money would be awarded for ecological restoration.

The judgement said that bad weather in the ecological reserve could not guarantee the success of a proposal by Taiwan to transplant or grow new colonies of coral in Lungkeng, which bore the brunt of the oil spill from the Greek-registered MV Amorgos off Kenting. The judgment also said Taiwan would share legal costs of nearly NT$16.9 million. . .

The Amorgos, en route from Indonesia to China, ran aground near Kenting National Park in bad weather on Jan. 14, 2001. Four days later, 1,150 tonnes of oil began to leak, contaminating 6,987m2 of the Lungkeng Ecological Reserve. The spill polluted the water, damaged the coastal ecological system and disrupted fishing in the area.

A Norway-based insurance company representing the vessel’s owner, Assuranceforeningen Gard (Gjensidig), paid out NT$61 million for the cleanup in Lungkeng, NT$1.8 million for forest restoration, NT$84.7 million for removal of part of the wrecked ship and NT$123 million to local fishermen.

But the government demanded more compensation for losses incurred by the fishing and tourism industries, as well as lost government revenue and the damage to the local ecology. Officials estimated that the government might receive an additional NT$350 million. . . [/quote] … 2003219033

I believe the govt is smarting from that loss, so they just said screw it, we’ll do nothing in this case.

I believe there was also talk that because of the extreme fragility of the ecosystem there it would be even more catastrophic to use chemical or biological agents to dissolve the oil. Plus, the nature of the shoreline makes it impossible to use booms and such.
Whether this is true or not I have no idea.

I guess its hard for me to buy the excuse that there’s no money to be spent, especially since they knew about the spill a few weeks before it even hit the island. Did they try to catch it before it hit the island? What stopped them from trying to isolate at least some of it before it got out of hand? Was the coast guard busy running around playing with unloaded rifles at the Hankuang drills? Funds still tied up in illicit KMT properties?

Even though I know that after the Kenting debacle no one trusts the EPA to do the right thing anyway, I really wish that if the government plans on continuing to make such a big show about loving Taiwan and being a green silicon island and all that, it would at least give the EPA some more teeth and perhaps a rudimentary medulla with which to use them.

Hell, I might as well ask for a halfway competent police force while I’m at it…