Wild Case: Tucheng Munitions Storage Area

One of the projects Wild has recently been involved with extensively is the effort to save a community in Tucheng (土城), Taipei County, from the greed of politicians and developers.

Photo: A Tucheng rice field

The community, which is a 20-minute metro ride and ten minute walk from the Tucheng metro station, is located in a former military base known as the Tucheng Munitions Storage Area (TMSA 土城彈藥庫), which until about four years ago meant that the 20 or so families within the area were basically under martial law, no outsiders were allowed in and the activities of the residents were restricted. (The military land constitutes less than a fifth of a total of 160 hectares.)

The Taipei Detention Facility in Tucheng (台北(土城)看守所) and its superior government agency the Ministry of Justice decided recently that their current facility is overcrowded and had hoped that by proposing to move the facility into the TMSA it could be labeled as a “major development”, which would simplify and accelerate screening procedures for the project.

Photo: Tucheng greens

At the same time, developers were salivating at the prospect of leveling the hills and putting up luxury housing projects and a hospital site for the Tzu Chi religious organization.

Not so fast, said the recently liberated residents. Leading protest after protest against the Taipei County government and several central government agencies the well-organised, local self-help group Tucheng Watch Ailyu Union (看守土城 愛綠聯盟) first got the Ministry of National Defense to watch over its land and put a stop to the illegal dumping of construction that was going on. They have been able to keep the Taipei County government on the defensive, even stopping a minor "beautification" project (involving cutting down trees and laying cement) that the government wanted to dole out to contractors as a prelude to cutting up the area and gradually forcing the residents out.

Photo: Tucheng land

However, the Environmental Impact Assessment for the Urban Development Plan for these developments (擴大土城都市計劃(土城彈藥庫及周邊地區) is proceeding, with a site visit and a preliminary meeting scheduled for early April.

Tucheng Watch has brought in a number of outside groups to help with everything from composting and organic gardening, eco-tourism, agriculture classes for people of all ages to more focused lobbying and legal measures to stop the government from caving in to pressure from the developers. Groups helping out include OURS, Wild at Heart, the Taiwan Nature Trails Society and the Green Party Taiwan. Other groups have helped out with investigations and surveys of plants, birds, insects and other animals, including human culture.

Photo: Tucheng farmers discuss
techniques with organic farmer Pierre

Two links are given here which will give readers a bit of an idea of the area and its people. The first is to the website of resident Yang Mu-wan (楊木萬), and shows the groups in protests during the past years. Yang, or “Ahwang” (阿萬) is running for mayor of Tucheng at the end of the year. The other link is to a video that shows a recent visit by Justice Minister Wang Ching-feng (王清峰) to the area. On the one hand, Minister Wang gave the residents some encouragement by stating that the site is not the only choice for relocation of the detention center, but during the same visit, she said "I am just passing by in this position as Minister of Justice," a remark she clearly meant to portray herself as an official above politics and with no personal stake in maintaining her position, but which revealed the disease suffered by most people in power that leaves them unable to connect with their potential to make change.

Ahwang’s blog
Video of Justice Minister Wang’s visit

Also see:
Activists fighting to keep heart of Tucheng green, Taipei Times 7/10/08