Beitou Cable Cars

Based on recent years' experience, as Taiwan's "environmental protection" laws and regulations have been passed and adopted like bamboo shoots after a spring rain, an observer from Mars would probably report back that the more laws brought into existence, the worse the environment gets. The slew of environmental legislation passed by elected officials has only green-washed relationships between Taiwan's government officials and businesspeople, disguising corrupt bargains and backdoor dealings that are selling away Taiwan's future.

In the World Economic Forum's (WEF) 2005 report on Environmental Sustainability Indexes of 146 countries, Taiwan ranked above only one country--North Korea. One of the indicators upon which the report is based is corruption, and if recent events in Taiwan are any indication, Taiwan could fall off the list in the next WEF ESI report.

On July 24, Wild at Heart's general secretary, Lin Tzu-ling, held a press conference to highlight the activities of a gang of city and central government officials, including the Taipei mayor and vice-minister of the interior in connection with a project to build a cable car and hot springs resort in Yangmingshan National Park.

Taiwan's national parks have been under pressure from developers and government officials since the first park was established in 1981. Wild is working on other cases involving illegal construction and possible corruption in Taroko National Park (related story here), Kenting National Park and the Jibei Island Special Tourism area in Penghu.

In short, the cable car project, which has a long history of opposition from nearby residents, was able to avoid an environmental impact assessment by coming in just under the threshold of 10 hectares for such transportation projects (the project is reputed to be an area of 9.782 hectares). It was finally put out to bid as a build-operate-tranfer project (BOT) by the Taipei city government in April 2005. Only one company participated in the bidding as it appeared from the bid documents that a BOT project to simply transport people up and down Yangming Mountain was unlikely to make any money. However, after negotiations between the city government and the successful bidder, the project transformed itself into something more financially attractive: to the cable car was added "training dormitories," a term that the former head of the park allegedly created in order to avoid scrutiny of the public for approving the construction of a hot spring resort in the National Park.

Park officials and officials from the Ministry of Interior were detained by the public prosecutor last week. Much of the land for the cable car/resort project is being loaned by the National Park to Taipei, and the city is the contracting party to the BOT. However, as of 29 July, there were no reports of anyone from the Taipei city government having been arrested, but the investigations are hardly over.

Demonstrations by residents and environmentalists at Taipei City Hall on Tuesday called for the immediate halt of construction on the cable car proejct and later that afternoon the Ministry of Interior announced cancellation of the licenses issued by the park for construction of the "training dormitory". However, Taipei's govenrment is insisting that the project will continue, with or without the dormitories. The developer is reported to be reevaluating the project in view of recent developments.

A number of stories on the cable car project appeared in both the English and Chinese electronic and print media. Links to some of the English-language stories follow, although the reader should be warned that the media is not known for its accuracy and if you have any specific questions you may contact Wild at Heart.

"Group urges halt to cable car project" Taiwan News July 25, 2006

"Ma under fire over cable car project" Taipei Times July 25, 2006

Further Reading:

"Cable car contractor's license revoked amid controversy" Taiwan News July 27, 2006 (

"Ma defends city's role in cable-car episode" Taipei Times July 26, 2006

"Officials appeal to detain cable-car contractor" Taiwan News July 26, 2006

"Cable car corruption case sparks bickering" Taipei Times July, 22, 2006

"MOI Vice Minister Yen detained, resigns", Taipei Times July 21, 2006

"Peitou residents battle city over cable car plan" Taipei Times May 2, 2005

"A cable car conundrum" Taipei Times September 4, 2000