John Seed in Taiwan

Paiwan artist gives carving to John Seed

I have just spent ten days accompanying John Seed on a trip around Taiwan. John is an environmentalist from Australia well known for his efforts protecting rainforests around the world and also as a philosopher of Deep Ecology. I met John at the Taoyuan Airport on the morning of 28 March. We then took the high speed train to Kaohsiung where we met Dr Lin Yih-ren who arranged John’s visit to Taiwan.

Wutai in Pingtung County

After lunch in Kaohsiung we went to visit the Qimei Community University and then went on a tour around the Meinong area. By the time night fell we were high in the mountains of Pingtung County staying at the Rukai village of Wutai. The photo at the top of this post shows Paiwan artist E-tan presenting one of his works to John. We met E-tan at the Autumn Moon Cafe (秋月e店) just above the town of Sandimen. The cafe is an amazing spot and is filled with great artworks.  Continue reading

Visit to village relocation site in Alishan

Alishan Tsou people

Yesterday I visited the Alishan area to look at an area of land that is proposed for a village relocation. The relocation plan is being put forward by members of the Laiji (來吉) community following the impacts of Typhoon Morakot. Some academics and people from the local government met with community members and were taken on a tour of the proposed site.  Continue reading

Visit to typhoon-affected areas of Kaohsiung County

Over the weekend I visited some of the areas affected by Typhoon Morakot in Kaohsiung County with a group of law students from Providence University. It is now more than eight months since the typhoon hit Taiwan. While there has been so much reported about the event in the media visiting these places provides a better understanding of the magnitude of the disaster.

The first part of the trip visited Liugui (六龜) and Baolai (寶來). In Liugui a Bunun elder related the history of his community. Following the typhoon they have been frustrated in their efforts to find a new place to relocate their village. Even though they have found a suitable place the government has repeatedly refused them permission to move there.

Dr Lin Yih-ren raised the important point that “moving the village” (遷村) is actually a normal part of the culture of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples. Historically they also migrated to new locations within Taiwan. However, forced relocation by the government is something different and doesn’t respect the autonomy or integrity of indigenous communities.

A satellite photo in Liugui showed the extent of landslides. These occurred in both areas were people lived and also in other places were there were no people living and no agricultural or other activities. This indicates the problem is not just related to land use, but is closely linked to the geology of the area. The landscape is very fragile in nature. Continue reading

Indigenous people oppose reconstruction plan

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Indigenous people affected by the Typhoon Morakot disaster and supporters held a protest in Taipei today. They protested against the government’s reconstruction plan and fear they may be forcefully relocated from their lands as a result of the disaster.

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While marching from 228 Park to Ketagalan Boulevard they shouted, “We want to go home!” Meaning they want to return to their home villages after being evacuated as a result of the disaster. They also shouted out three demands, “Respect the indigenous communities, stop and investigate the reconstruction legislation, oppose forced relocation of villages” (尊重部落主體性、重建條例暫緩審查、反對強制遷村). Continue reading

Typhoon Morakot flooding update

Following on from my post yesterday here is some more information about the damage caused by flooding from Typhoon Morakot (颱風莫拉克).

The Taiwan HSR website says trains are operating every half hour between Taipei and Zuoying today. Taiwan Railways website says there are no trains operating between Xinying and Shanhua in Tainan County. A transfer bus is operating between these two stations. Between Shanhua and Kaohsiung trains are running every 30 minutes. There are no services on the southern link line. A section of the line at Taimali in Taidong County was destroyed and the flooding has affected the foundations of the Linbian River Bridge in Pingdong. Taipei-Hualien-Taitung services are running as normal, but trains to Taidong are stopping at Luye and passengers must transfer to Taitung by bus.

A group of people from the Association of Digital Culture Taiwan (台灣數位文化協會) have established a website called the Morakot Internet Disaster Centre (莫拉克災情網路中心). They are also twittering news at @taiwanfloods and floods at Plurk. All the information is in Chinese so I will try to translate some of it to help give a better picture of the extent of the damage and the situation with providing disaster relief. Continue reading

Typhoon Morakot hits southern Taiwan hard

Typhoon Morakot (颱風莫拉克) hit Taiwan on Friday and Saturday bringing torrential rains that caused serious flooding in the south of Taiwan. It rained throughout most of the day in Taipei on Friday and there were some strong gusts of wind, but no serious damage in the north.

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Media outlets in Taiwan have been reporting the situation in the south as the worst flooding in 50 years. 2,000 millimetres of rain has fallen in parts of Pingdong County. The rainfall charts from the Central Weather Bureau show the rainfall in Taiwan from 6-8 August. Although the typhoon’s intensity has weakened it will continue to bring more rain today and tomorrow.

Taitung County also seems to have suffered some terrible damage. CNA reports that 20 houses were washed into the sea. Freddy Lim tweeted, “Panai sent some news. Morakot brought some torrential rains, Taitung has suffered a terrible disaster. Half of Kimbo Hu’s home village was washed away. Tomorrow’s music festival will be used for fundraising.”  (巴奈傳來消息,莫拉克豪雨襲擊,台東災情慘重,胡德夫的家鄉嘉蘭村流掉一半,明天東海岸音樂節將為賑災募款!) The Taipei Times reports that a 600 metre section of the Southern Link railway and freeway was washed away in Taimali (太麻里), Taidong County. Continue reading