More than 52,000 illegal factories on nation’s farmland

This is one big reason that I try to avoid eating food grown on Taiwan farms.

Hmm…What products are those factories are producing…

What do they mean by “factory” ? Were they production factories built on land that should be reserved for farming? Or factories that processed/packed the fruit and vegetables produced on the farmland?

Clear as chocolate.

Yeah what Taiwanese people call a factory is often nothing like what we’d call a factory in the west.

Driving the west coast country side all the way down past Pingtung seems like there are small factories every few hundred meters/half mile or less.

Between or next to every rice field or farm area.

Jeez those factories just appeared out of nowhere.
52,000 illegal factories is a massive environmental disaster, hence the polluted waterways, food, air and food.

It’s not rocketscience though is it.


I always thought those factories were registered or legal so at least have some sort of environmental regulation. GUESS NOT! So they are doing whatever they want to the environment.

It’s no secret whatsoever. Government know this for decades. Factories commonly locate on agricultural land because

A) some started as household enterprises and grew bigger and bigger (decades ago govt encouraged Taiwanese to have household factories and enterprises )
B) being located on agri zoned land means they can avoid some business taxes and property taxes and regulations
c) agri zoned land is much cheaper to buy and rent

In Taichung county that have been rezoning land over the last few years, some factiry owners hit the jackpot when the agri land is zoned as industrial others could be across the street and remain agri land and have to shut and the land will be worth a fraction of the industrial land.

This reozning is very late in the day with huge areas of soil and water heavily polluted. For instance changhua is well known for metalworks factories. These kind of factories are really bad for the environment as they often leach heavy metals and bad stuff like cyanide.

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TV news reported 13000 hectares of land are occupied by illegal factories.

That’s 130 square kilometres or 50 square miles.

I have a theory that pretty much everything in rural Taiwan is illegal - and it’s purposely designed that way

For a start, illegal land speculation deals are a time-honoured way for local politicians to make a killing so it’s in their interests that farm land is covered in a fog of general illegality

Secondly, if anyone does kick up a stink, then they just need to pull on their cord and it’s more than likely that they will be able to pin some illegal activity on their accuser

I know of people who have applied to farm their farmland and the regulations are so full of catch 22 clauses that it makes it virtually impossible to comply with the myriad of laws even if they want to

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The lack of zoning (or more likely from the contents of this article unenforced zoning) always depresses me when I visit the countryside of Taiwan. Things are beautiful in Ji An, for example, but then you scan east and west and without fail, you’ll set your eyes on a factory. Even right in the middle ofHualien City by the ocean, that terrible factory (cement?). And don’t get me started on the beautiful locations on the way to Hualien. It’s just a shame, really. Nan-ao would in most places be a beautiful nature reserve or at least the place of a well-kept resort area. It’s ruined by that factory. Been wanting to go there, but I’m sure the water is ruined by the run-off from that horrible looking factory.

The stuff I’ve found so far may be outdated, but I’ll give this a shot.

Even from my perspective of limited knowledge, this seems to be a historical thing, and something that’s difficult to untangle from Taiwan’s entry into the developed world:

Like coral polyps building up a reef, thousands of tiny businesses powered by millions of small, unsecured loans built one of the world’s largest trading economies.

–Shelly Rigger, Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse, page 53 (2011)

On page 51, Rigger gives an older example of rural Taiwanese dividing the labor of making Christmas-tree lights, where the division took place between households. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that kind of manufacturing was no longer present (on the other hand, if people out in the country were still making Christmas-tree lights, I wouldn’t be too surprised by that, either).

Maybe more relevantly, an article published in the 1980s describes “twenty small-scale factories” in a single village. It says that thirteen of them were “machinery processing plants,” and that the remainder were engaged in “wood product manufacturing, electroplating, vacuum-modeling and sealing, electronics assembly, and hat and bag manufacturing.” It adds that “four families have established similar kinds of small-scale factories outside the village,” and that outsiders had also rented houses for factory work.

–Hu Tai-li, “The Emergence of Small-Scale Industry in a Taiwanese Rural Community.” Chapter 16 of Men, Women, and International Division of Labor, June Nash and M. P. F. Kelly, eds. SUNY Press (1983), PDF page 4

There’s stuff on the 'net about electroplating in rural communities, but I don’t know if people still do that here; even if they don’t, though, I’m guessing the byproducts stick around for quite a while:

Using nickel, chrome, and zinc, small electroplating workshops add an important step in giving strength and luster to a wide array of items from belt buckles and household appliances to computer components. . . . These insidious types of pollution are relatively invisible but extremely dangerous, sometimes even leading to the abandonment of farming because of the fear of growing and then eating “cadmium rice and vegetables”.

–Linda Gail Arrigo, “The Environmental Nightmare of the Economic Miracle: Land Abuse and Land Struggles in Taiwan” (1994), article, quoting Ronald G. Knapp, “Rural Housing and Village Transformation in Taiwan and Fujian,” conference paper (1993).


One of my coworkers from pingtong said his family got busted last year when they built a warehouse on their private property without getting any permits. He thought he got ratted out by a neighbor, but it turned out it was from satellite pictures. He was told pictures are taking every 3-4 days and if something big doesn’t match up, it’s a red flag for a visit.

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They just started enforcing that for the last year or two I think. It’s a kind of a cut off date using satellite automated detection
So stuff before that will often get ignored unless reported. Taiwanese solution.

Where the wife is from they used to have many small factories and workshops and they also had outsiders who loves there in the 80s. Now almost all the factories closed or moved to China, much of the population left and the relatives have mostly gone back to small farming and odd jobs like construction.
What always concerns me is you don’t really know if a given field used to have a factory located on it. Fortunately that area was mostly making ceramics so not so as places down Central and South.
There’s still some illegal workshops that gone up over last couple of years but these days the big money is in villas and single plot homes for retired ppl and outsiders not factories.

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‘Tangled’ is the word - and the whole thing needs a massive reworking

From the article, I’m hopeful that that’s maybe what the government is planning:

…the government has been preparing for a rezoning of the nation’s land into four categories — national reserves, marine resources, agriculture development and urban development area

Absolutely there is a problem with rampant illegal developments on farm land - including government backed ones - but the concept of zoning farmland area for “urban development” could potentially be a re-alignment with common-sense

The reality in Taidong is that many plots of farmland are already being used, technically illegally, for that purpose. Small houses on 250 fen blocks

Generally speaking these people are not evil environment destroying monsters - they are retired people who want to get a bit closer to nature - or hippie types - or both

So long as they are limited to building on a small percentage of the land, which is mostly the case now, I don’t see that as a bad thing necessarily

Otherwise what are the legal residential options in Taiwan if you’re not super rich and don’t have the money to buy a stand-alone house with a decent backyard in residentially zoned area?

Right now its The Box - Or Nothing


Those standalone plots arent for poor people. I think it’s nice if people can retire to such homes but if all the retired people and foreigners too decide they want these ‘farm villas’ then there goes the countryside like the Yilan plain.

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Sure. But then again ownership of an apartment in Taipei is not for poor people either

For a regular person it takes many years of hard work and diligent saving to be able to buy their house - it’s the same for most people who live in the country - actually it’s a bit cheaper there

I know of the problems in Ilan (though wasn’t aware that foreigners were partially to blame for that), but it’s not quite like that in Taidong - not because of better government oversight but rather because the ‘hippies’ moved in before the developers had a chance to buy up all the land

There are restrictions on the size of developments and they are limited to one storey and I strongly agree that those restrictions should remain and be enforced in any new rezoning

Currently, some people do seem to be able to get around those laws and that’s annoying - but to say no-one can live on private farmland is to say no-one can live outside apartment buildings clustered together in cities and towns - coz outside those towns it’s all farm land or pubic land pretty much

I hate to be the one to bring it up, Mr. Dong of Tai, but that last sentence… :whistle:

Developers building factories are to be required to halt construction and demolish their facilities before a given time, or the government would forcibly remove them, he said, citing the Building Act (建築法).

Owners of finished factories would face fines of between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000 (US$1,985 and US$9,927) and would also be given a deadline for removal, Yang said, adding that in line with the Regional Plan Act (區域計畫法, their electricity and water supply could be cut off if they do not obey.

Forcible removal would follow if an owner is fined for two or three consecutive rounds, Tang said.