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Fairy Pitta Habitat in Taiwan Threatened with Destruction

?extinction possible!

Could this spell extinction for this attractive bird with a worldwide population of only some 2,000 individuals? It situation is now more critical as that of the rediscovered Gurney’s Pitta.

The Hushan Dam in Taiwan

Plans were first laid to submerge You-cing Valley, located in the Hushan area south-east of Douliu City in Taiwan in 1994 The resulting reservoir would, according to developers, alleviate the current shortage of agricultural and domestic water, and mitigate the serious land subsidence that had occurred through excessive pumping of groundwater. More than ten years later, however, the dam still exists only on paper, and a growing number of people are fighting to keep it that way. You-cing Valley carves a winding path through lush forest which is home to a wealth of animal species to whom the plants and pools provide either a permanent home, or a vital resting and breeding ground along migration routes. The diversity of animal life in Hushan includes the Formosan Blue Magpie Urocissa caerulea and Swinhoe's Pheasant Lophura swinhoii, two of five endemic bird species in the area. There is a vast number of resident amphibians; 21 of Taiwan’s 31 frog species have been spotted at Hushan.

One particularly striking bird, the Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha, migrates to You-cing Valley in late spring every year from countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. Threatened by habitat destruction, only about 2,000 Fairy Pitta remain worldwide. It is listed as a vulnerable bird by Birdlife International and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and is listed as an endangered species in Taiwan, where Hushan provides the world’s most densely populated Fairy Pitta habitat known to date.Birdlife International representatives visited Taiwan in 2000 to voice concern over exploitation of local forest resources and later, in 2004, wrote to the President Chen Shui-bian asking that the government confer greater protection status on the Fairy Pitta habitat. Specifically addressing the Hushan dam proposal, a new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was called for, taking into consideration the importance of the area's ecosystems, as well as the viable, low cost alternatives that had been suggested in place of the dam.

However, even with protection under the law and the work of activists at home and abroad, the rich ecosystem of the You-cing Valley are not out of danger; the growing pressure of corporate and political interest in the Hushan dam project led in January 2005 to agreement by the Forestry Bureau to release the land from under its control, making it available to developers. Although the grounds for urgency in approving and starting construction were again ostensibly water shortage and ground subsidence, two major construction projects on Yunlin's offshore business park involving a steelworks, and a petrochemical science and technology park, both with an enormous future demand for water and notorious pollution potential, seemed a more reason for new impetus for the dam construction.To residents of Yunlin who trust in the promotional information they have received, the project still represents a solution to their water needs. Those who do not live near Hushan do not feel threatened by the potential collapse of the dam--and why should there be concern, when the engineers are so confident in their ability to overcome the forces of nature that they see no need to disclose their solutions for public review?

A study of the ecology and geology of the proposed dam site, and the health and environmental effects of factories such as those planned for the business park and the risks and sacrifices involved in the Hushan dam project far outweigh the benefits of channelling more of the county's scarce resources into the into the hands of a few powerful corporations.

You can help stave off this disaster by registering your protest with the Taiwanese authorities.

Join the Proact protest at http://www.proact-campaigns.net/localcampaigns/fairy_pitta.html

For more comprehensive background information see http://en.wildatheart.org.tw/archives/the_hushan_dam.html

4th July 2014