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Taiwan: Our land and the Statute of Rural Renewal

我家門前有小河,後面有山坡,山坡上面野花多,野花紅似火……

“A small river runs in front my door, a hill rises in the back with wild flowers everywhere, as red as fire…”.

The scenery of Taiwan's countryside as simple and stunningly beautiful as depicted by the above popular lullaby will soon be vanished. Small rivers will be replaced by sewage pipes, hills will be flattened, and there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of factories and sumptuous villas rise in the middle of farmland. Of course, there will be potted plant inside the walls of these villas, but there won't be egrets or even sparrows anymore.

On December 18th, 2008, soon after the news that the Economics Committee of Legislative Yuan had examined and passed all articles concerning Rural Renewal Statute through the First Reading procedure, discussions spread through on the Internet. With the promise of pouring 200 billion NTD into rural villages in ten years, the first idea popped up many people's minds is “this is a opportunity for countryside!”, but is it really so? Bloggers and citizen journalists have different answers.

munch quickly wrote “Three minutes to understand the Statute of Rural Renewal” for those who are eager to know the implications of these articles:

第一分鐘!誰來領錢?

……就是同一社區組織,必須先行整合,只能有一份計劃書,如有岐異,就得在地方自行搞定。這樣的限定,大概可以預見傳統樁腳型村里組織和社造理念型團隊組織,大概又是一場爭資源的腥風血雨……

First minute! Who's going to cash in on it?
…Inside a community organization, you have to integrate first, and you can only have one plan; if there is any diversified ideas, handle them yourselves in the local level. This restriction foresees sanguinary slaughters for resources between and inside traditional mighty local organizations and community building ideal-based groups….

第二分鐘!誰最獲益?再來,就到了再生條例的精髓。

……「污水處理、垃圾清理及資源回收設施。」……以再生發展區為名,由地方提報,中央核定,地目重新編定。換句話說,上述污染工業都可能透過區域重劃,成為農村再生的一環。

Second minute! Who's getting the most benefits? You'll see the pith of this statute.
…”Facilities for sewage treatment, garbage cleansing, and resource recycling”…under the disguise of renewal developing area, all applications are to be submitted by local villages, get checked and ratified by central government so as to redefine the land use. In other words, all the heavily-polluting industries can therefore become a part of rural renewal via redefinition of land use.

第三分鐘!置死地而後生?

……一大筆錢,分給有計劃的農村整修門面,其中誰可以拿到錢整修,必須在地方先行角力一番,……生活區由居民玩文化景觀,再生區交政府搞工業建設,沒資本的農民,就一旁看人玩。

Third Minute! Reborn from dead?

…There's a huge amount of money, distributed to villages with plans to decorate their outlook. No matter who gets the money, a fight must be taken in the local first, …local residents will be responsible for the cultural landscape planning in the living areas, while the renewal areas are in the hands of local government to develop industry. Farmers with no capital? You can sit aside and watch.

Cai Pei-hui, a PhD candidate of the Institute of Agriculture Promotion in Taiwan University, summarized the Statute and commented in Coolloud:

1.這是一個土地開發法案。 ……農村再生。反而將因土地炒作,致使農村居民被迫給付高額土地稅金而形成制度壓迫……

2.……台灣的農村發展的最佳模式,應該立基於小農生產,做最大規模的合作產銷,而非重整土地資源……

3.……而再生條例中的在地組織整合,勢將限縮農民組織空間……

1.This is a statute for land exploitation….Renewal of the villages… It will eventually result in a land bidding game, and rural residents will be forced to pay high land tax which leads to a systematic exploitation…

2….The best mode for Taiwan's rural farming villages should base on small peasantry economy, and maximize the scale of cooperative production and marketing, instead of manipulation and exploitation of land resources…

3. ….The part of “integrating local organizations” in the statute will impose restriction on the development of farmer's organizations.

Cai Jian-Fu also commented on the Statute in Dfun, a citizen media focusing on agriculture and rural living experiences:

……台灣現階段的農村工作真正需要的是一個資源整合與問題討論的平台,這個平台必須是跨部會與跨公私部門的……更重要的是,如何使其兼顧弱勢均衡與發展卓越的需求,擺脫政府疊床架屋的組織習性,定期檢視何者該作為而不作為……

…What's truly needed in Taiwan village at present is a platform for discussion and integration of resources. This platform should bridge the private and public sector and different government departments…what's more important is how to address and balance the demand from minority social groups and developmental plan. It is necessary to get rid of the bureaucratic habit in decision making and reflect upon what should be done on a regular base….

Apart from discussing the issue among themselves, concerned citizens also visit local villages and organize town hall meeting with villagers. Citizen media and campaign sites like Todei, Dfun, and Coolloud have detailed reports. On Dfun, a post titled “If you are a son or daughter from a farmer's family…” ignites a lot of  discussions, and for the first time, peasants’ voices are widely heard in the Internet:

不敢稱農家子弟 Don't call me a son of a farmer's family said in a reply:

……問舅舅知道《農村再生條例》嗎?他說:不知。將條例解說給他聽,他沉默不語。問舅舅現在的桃園農村有什麼地方組織,可以規劃農村建設?他想了很久,回答:農會。又回說:這下,農會總幹事肚子會吃得更撐了。……

…I asked my uncle whether of not he heard of the “Statute of Rural Renewal”. He said:”No”. I then explained him this statute, and he fell into silence. I asked him whether there are local organizations that can make a plan on village construction? He deliberated for a long while, and answered: “Farmer's Association”. And he continued: “Now the pocket of the Secretary in Chief will grow bigger and bigger….”

Professionals also join in the discussion. A letter that expresses “Apology to Next Generation's Architects”, written by an architect Sun De-hong, has been widely spread over the Internet, in which he mentioned:

……如今單單三星鄉一地每年的農舍增加量就已破百,壯圍、五結一帶則是滿目瘡痍,其他鄉鎮更不用講……偏偏「假農舍」帶來的問題不勝枚舉,包含污染農村環境、加速農地碎化、影響農地日照等等……

…Each year, more than 100 new “cottages” are built just in San Xing(三星) village, more are constructed in Zhuang Wei(壯圍) and Wu Jie(五結), not to mention the situation in other villages. The rural landscape is devastating…”fake cottages” have brought a lot of problems, including environmental pollution, farmland fragmentation, sunlight blocking, etc….

greenlost at oikos-taiwan reflects upon the the statute from the perspective of environmental justice and ecological ethics(zh). He questions the whole logic of the debate:

換個角度來想,倘若我們自己是某個農村裡的某個團體、對於農村有著許多改善與改造的想像,但卻苦於資源不足與法令綑綁,我們真的會那麼樣地反對農村再生條例嗎?…我們真的不期待有什麼樣的機會得以做出改變嗎?

From another perspective, if we were in the position of a village organization, and we have a lot of ideas to reform and improve the village, however, due to the lack of resources and the impediments of laws, we could not do anything, are we still going tol oppose the Statute of Rural Renewal?…Aren't we expecting an opportunity to bring changes?

PTS's program “Our Island” has a special coverage on the statute and its possible consequence(zh):

The dispute is getting hotter when more farmers and villagers are expressing their voices on personal blogs, forums, and citizen media. However, KMT, the ruling party and DPP, the major opposition party, are both pushing the statute into Second Reading procedure in the Legislative Yuan since another round of local election is coming. Very few politicians would give up this opportunity to gain more votes from the election. Moreover, impacted by the global financial crisis, spending more money has become the new political correctness in Taiwan's Governmental dictionary for rescuing the economy.

Unfortunately, on March 26th when a public hearing for this issue was held in the Legislative Yuan in downtown Taipei, farmers and citizen journalists who travelled a long way from southern Taiwan to express their concern toward this expensive and environmentally exploitative statute were forbidden from entering the hall entirely (zh).

Ridiculous? This is Taiwan.

—————————————-

This post is orginally written in Chinese Traditional by Liu Wei-ting at NewStory, edited and rewritten into English by Portnoy.

3 comments

  • James

    I wish that progress didn’t not have to be equated with development. For some areas, removing buildings, increasing the amount of farmland or open space or parkland can be progress too. The dispersal of little inns all over the countryside will be a big disaster for rural areas.

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