Taiwan's algae reef referendum: the true purpose behind its back

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Taiwan's Algae reef referendum essay : Intro

At the 2021 Taiwan referendum, as a Taiwanese college student who had the right to vote for the first time, I was very excited about the referendum.  Because it is the first time I participated in this kind of political activity in my life, and thus I was full of curiosity about each proposals.

The 2021 Taiwan referendum includes : 1. to activate the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District, New Taipei City; 2. calling for a ban on imports on pork containing ractopamine; 3. holding referendums alongside nationwide elections; and 4. relocating a natural gas terminal to protect algal reefs off Taoyuan's Guanyin District. 

At the beginning, in major social media, newspapers and magazines, news broadcast programs, etc., there was a lot of information for the people's reference, and my friends and I also obtain this knowledge through these platforms, and after some research and study I did by myself, the topic of the referendum that interested me the most was the Algae Reef, meanwhile I was very curious about the factors and the problems behind this topic, so I did this research to find out.

Taiwan's algae reef referendum essay : research questions and research method

In this article, I will explore the following issues in order:

First, what is the root cause of this referendum?

Second, what role did different groups, such as some environmetal protection groups like Wilderness Conservation Association and Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan, Kuomintang(KMT), Democratic Progressive Party(DPP),  residents in Datan play in the referendum?

Third, are there any connecitons or relationships between those groups ?

I hope that through this article, some facts can be clarified and these issues can be clarified through objective analysis.

In this article, I mainly use Archive Study as my research method, and I have collected a lot of referendum information at the time before the referendum, including election bulletins, referendum news, and some data on the website of the Environmental Protection Association. Through this data, I was able to answer the above questions and analyze them in a more systematically way.

The condense information about Taiwan algae referendum

This photo shows the main topic of the referendum, whether to agree to the relocation of the third natural gas receiving station of Chinese Petroleum Corporation(CPC) from the coast and sea area of Datan Reef in Taoyuan? This is the core of this referendum, and the following are the respective arguments of the two sides:

The opposing parties believe that the third natural gas receiving station is an important construction for Taiwan's energy transformation, coal burning, and air pollution reduction, and the decisions made by the Taiwan authorities have been jointly discussed and decided by various ministries.

The supporter’s point of view is that the problem is not the construction of the third natural gas receiving station but the location of it. Nowadays, the Taiwan authorities have moved the third natural gas receiving station to the outer sea in order to reduce the impact on the ecology, but on the contrary increase the impact on the surrounding ecology.

The environmental protecting group-THE SOCIETY OF WILDERNESS

The purpose of the Society of Wilderness is to acquire the custody and management of the wasteland through purchase, long-term lease, entrustment, or donation, to protect it, and to allow nature to manage itself as much as possible and restore its vitality. Let us and future generations explore the mysteries of nature and understand the meaning of life from the deliberately preserved wilderness of Taiwan.

They emphasized that Taoyuan Algae Reef is the largest algae reef ecosystem in the world on a shoal, it is rich in ecology and supporting nearly 100 species of organism; moreover, it has been listed by the international conservation organization Mission Blue as the first ecological hope hotspot in East Asia.



The Association believes that the crisis facing algae reefs has the following three points:

First: Industrial pollution. Taoyuan City is lined with industrial areas along the coastline, and almost all the coastline is polluted by industrial wastewater, which not only causes the death of coral algae, but also other dependent organisms.

Second: Sediment Bleaching Siltation Problem. After the construction of ports, embankments and improper seawalls, the sediment bleaching silt in the algae reef area is getting thicker and thicker, resulting in a porous environment being blocked, various organisms are difficult to survive, and the bottom of the food chain of the habitat is gradually disintegrating.

Third: Coastal development. Datan Algae Reef is located next to Guanin Algae Reef, once the project is carried out, the "Guanin Algae Reef Wildlife Sanctuary" and "White Jade Algae Reef" will also be affected by the levee effect, and the precious algae reef ecology will be destroyed.

Environmental protecting group-CITIZEN OF THE EARTH, TAIWAN's point of view

Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan is an environmental group that has moved from a supporter to an opposing position. Its CEO Li Genzheng believes that because the current plan proposed by the Ministry of Economy is indeed moving toward to the goal of mitigating ecological impacts, and the conservation campaign of Datan Algae Reef has achieved many important achievements such arouse people’s recognition of the algae and successfully send the EIA variance analysis report to the Environmental Impact Assessment Review Committee.

He also said, "We cannot ignore the important role played by the third natural gas receiving station in the energy transition, so insisting on leaving Datan through a referendum is not the best choice for Taiwan."


Taoyuan Mayor Zheng Wencan explained that in 2014, the administrative agency announced the closure of the fourth nuclear plant and launched the third natural gas receiving station plan of CPC, is mainly for the supply of gas for the new machines of the Datan Power Plant, which is a supporting plan for the "non-nuclear homeland" and achieves the goal of "reducing coal and air pollution", but it is also the source of conflict on the issue of algae reef.

President Tsai Ing-wen said, "Protecting our homeland is our mission, we have the same goal, but the way we choose to achieve it may be a little different." The most important task at this stage is to make the facts clear. Especially for the algae reef, she believes that many people are for conservation, and the DPP has also done its best to protect the algae reef, the central and local governments have joined forces to invest in the 27-kilometer coastal conservation of Taoyuan, including Guanxin Algae Reef, and then plan to set up a fund to promote systematic conservation of many algae reefs throughout Taiwan.

KMT's point of view for the referendum of algae reef

For KMT, any political views and positions of DPP seem to be wrong. The data of KMT that I have found on the Internet can be roughly divided into two categories, one is to advocate that the referendum on the reef is the decisive point of the two parties, obviously seeing the referendum as a means of political struggle, and the other is the speech against the DPP.

Although the two parties have been insulting each other through the media, after this information inquiry, I found out that the political party could use "to win over the other party" as a reason to call on the people to vote, which made me feel bad and a little sad.

The connection between the result of the referendum and the local political tendency

From these two images, we can see that the final result of the referendum is actually highly correlated with the long-term bias of political positions in various places, and the counties that are more inclined to KMT have more tendencies to support the position in this referendum; and the counties that support the DPP are more inclined to stand in the oppose the position.

They not only shows the high correlation between the referendum results and political leanings, but also from another perspective, it can also be seen that most people actually lack opinion, and often blindly follow the parties they support for policy decisions.

The Voice of the residents in Datan

When the major mainstream media pages were occupied by KMT and DPP, I was surprised to find that news and articles about local residents were not easy to find, and when I finally found them, their position surprised me.

After reading articles from different groups, arguments from different positions, and the opinion I heard of more often at that time, I always thought that the local people were on a supportive side. However, they present four reasons for their opposite choice:

First, there is no alternative after the third natural gas receiving station were abolished

Second, The Datan Algae Reef has already been polluted by heavy metals

Third, the people have accepted the feedback program

Fourth, the third natural gas receiving station in turn promote the growth of coral reefs


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Created date

April 20, 2022

Cite as

Sharon Ku and Pan, Mi. 20 April 2022, "Taiwan's algae reef referendum: the true purpose behind its back", Disaster STS Network, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 5 May 2022, accessed 17 May 2022. https://disaster-sts-network.org/content/taiwans-algae-reef-referendum-true-purpose-behind-its-back