Taipei, A government plan to install solar panels near a wetlands will not affect the natural habitats of endangered winter migratory birds, the Chiayi County government said Sunday in response to a report saying the plan was driving the birds away.
Li Chienlin deputy head of the Chiayi County Agriculture Department, told CNA that the solar panels will not to be installed on the legally defined grounds of the Budai Salt Pan Wetlands because the area and surrounding salt fields are important habitats for the endangered blackfaced spoonbill.
After a meeting with the Ministry of the Interior and experts, it was decided that the installations will be limited to four plots of land, which total 102 hectares, and will not be expanded to preserve the birds' natural habitat, Li said.
The statement came after the United Daily News (UDN) reported blackfaced spoonbills are disappearing from the county's Budai wetlands because of the digging and preparation for the installation of the solar panels in the area.
According to the UDN, conservationists said that since bobcats began digging up one of the plots of land where the solar panels are to be installed, blackfaced spoonbill numbers have dwindled because they have gone elsewhere to search for food.
In its statement, Chiayi County said the project is being developed in line with the country's determination to promote green energy, with the land provided by the Ministry of Finance's National Property Administration for development in collaboration with the county government.
The Chiayi Ecological Conservation Association questioned, however, whether the county government is actually protecting or sacrificing the environment.
It said it hoped that more people will care about the habitat of the blackfaced spoonbill and other migratory birds by protecting the wetlands and its ecological environment.
According to environmental awareness website Save International, the central government in late 2016 announced a major greenenergy initiative to build thousands of hectares of new solar panels on the western coast of Taiwan.
The initiative was to be a major component of the country's 2025 nuclear free goal, even though some of the designated sites for solar panel installations were national wetlands, which provide important habitats for blackfaced spoonbills, Save International said.
There are only an estimated 4,463 blackfaced spoonbills left in the world, and Taiwan offers them one of their biggest wintering sites, according to migratory waterbirds protection website East AsianAustralasian Flyway Partnership.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel