The Taiwanese state-owned Kuokuang petrochemical project met its end in 2011 due to objections from farmers, local residents and environmentalists.
The Kuokuang project was first proposed in 2006 with the final site selected on a coastal wetland in southern Changhua County in 2008. It planned to build a 300,000 barrel-a-day refinery, factories that could produce 25 varieties of chemical products, and a 1.2-million-ton-a-year ethylene plant.
According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), the project could boost Taiwan’s economy by helping create 375 thousand jobs, attract NT$933.6 billion in future investments, and generate NT$460 billion in annual output.
MOEA pledged to ensure the public that the cracker project would have minimal impact on the environment. “The Kuokuang venture will use the latest technology to increase Taiwan’s petrochemical production capacity while creating less pollution,” said Woody T.J. Duh, director-general of the MOEA’s Industrial Development Bureau.
However, civil groups warned that there could be significant environmental impacts, including those on air pollution, human health risks, changes to coastal geography, the endangered Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, and the area’s water supply.
As the industrial complex planned to reclaim land of more than 4,000 hectares and build a harbor to ship petrochemical products in an area which have long provided much of the country's fish and farm products, it could threaten not just the air quality but also food security, critics argued.
Besides, the proposed site, Dacheng Wetland, was Taiwan’s greatest coastal wetland, rich in plant and animal life. A naphtha cracking plant could put the kidney of Taiwan in jeopardy. Also, oil tankers and pollution might also damage the habitat of the already endangered pink-hued Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins that lived in the waters off the wetland and numbered only between 80 and 90 in 2008.
"The population [of humpback dolphins] has reached a tipping point," said Chou Lien-siang, the National Taiwan University professor who led a research team to assess the influence of the petrochemical plant on the humpback dolphins. "It will decrease drastically if any critical event happens.”
The Kuokuang petrochemical development project has probably seen the strongest public opposition to an industrial project in Taiwan in years, which signals a new priority on environmental considerations.
On April 22, 2011 Taiwan's president, Ma Ying-jeou, nixed the application for the US$24 billion offshore refinery and the case The Kuokuang case is now referred to locally as a turning point for environmentalism in Taiwan.