Meinung dam and Yellow Butterfly valley, Taiwan

The controversy over the proposed Meinung dam began in 1992. It would damage the local Hakka population and also the biodiversity of the Yellow Butterfly valley. The project was stopped.


Meinung is a tobacco-growing community located in the mountainous region of southern Taiwan, where the majority of local residents are of Hakka ethnic descent. The controversy over the proposed Meinung dam began in 1992. The cost of the proposed dam was estimated to be US$4 billion (Liang, 1993). Upon completion, the dam would have supplied water to the region's growing heavy industries, including the proposed Binnan industrial complex at Chiku lagoon. In fact, planning for the dam began in the 1980s, but local people were not aware of it until 1992. The government's failure to disclose the project to the local community angered the communities and their leaders. A small group of local people, including teachers and scholars, initiated a movement that expanded into a broad coalition of residents and organisations. Between 1993 and 1994, the movement organised a series of protests in Taipei, persuading the Economic and Budget Committee at the National Legislature to eliminate the dam project.[1]   Meinung has long had a strong and distinct cultural identity as an agrarian Hakka community. The strong cultural identity transmitted to the outside world through literature and media has allowed Meinung to earn the name of Hakka Yuan-shian (home town). This strong cultural identity became an important component in mobilizing the community and constructing an argument against the proposed Meinung Dam. [2] The book Return to Meinung (1994) represents a social and cultural manifesto for the movement. The book is divided into four chapters. The first two chapters present stories that tell the agricultural background of the community, particularly the practice of tobacco farming. It also includes an article on farmers' movement in Taiwan. The third chapter provides a critical reflection on the traditional role of women in the Hakka society. The documentation of the anti-dam movement appears only as the last chapter in the book. One of the most direct cultural and ecological expressions of the anti-dam movement, aside from the colorful protests, is the creation of an annual Yellow Butterfly Festival. 

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Basic Data
NameMeinung dam and Yellow Butterfly valley, Taiwan
ProvinceSouthern Taiwan
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific CommoditiesWater
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsLocated in the mountainous region of Southern Taiwan, Meinung is a tobacco-growing community where the majority of local residents are of Hakka descent. The controversy concerning the proposed Meinung dam began in 1992 when rumors about the proposed dam began to circulate in this rural community. The proposed Meinung Dam, to be located in the upstream of Meinung Creek, is an earth gravity dam 147 meters high and 220 meters wide with a full storage capacity of 32.8 million cubic meters. The cost of the project was projected around four billion U.S. dollars (Liang, 1993: 7). Once completed, the dam was expected to supply water to the region’s growing heavy industry including the Binnan Industrial Complex.. Planning for Meinung Dam began in 1980s; however, it was not known to the local residents until 1992. The site and the size of the dam and its location raised fear among the local residents. The

proposed dam site is known to be geologically unsuitable as a dam site. The geology of the area is prone to earthquake. There was also widespread speculation about existence of active faults underneath the dam site. The proposed off-stream dam only 1.5-km upstream

from the nearest village and 4 km away from the center of the township with a population of 55,000 posed a serious threat to the safety of the region and its residents [2]
Project Area (in hectares)6,400
Level of Investment (in USD)4,000,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population55,000
Start Date1992
End Date2000
Relevant government actorsGovernment of Taiwan.
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersMeinung People’s Association (founded in 1994).

Children's Ecology Camps (founded 1997).
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Hakka people (who migrated from Guandong centuries ago)
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Violations of human rights, Other socio-economic impacts, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
OtherRisk of damages if the dam would fail because of an earthquake in this seismic region
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseProject cancelled
Development of AlternativesThe Meinung People's Association was established by a group of farmers, local political leaders, youth who had returned home, and local artists. The group organized meetings in opposition to the reservoir, and through a series of lectures and publicity events, gradually created a mood of local opposition to the plans. Eventually, the Legislative Yuan Budgetary Committee decided that a new review on water resources in South Taiwan was required and removed funding for the reservoir. The ideals and efforts of the Meinong residents ended in a major victory. The Meinong People's Association stated that opposition to the reservoir was only a start, and that the movement would continue into the future.

Following a number of initiatives over the years, a movement that started in opposition to a single reservoir has grown into a broader water conservation movement. In addition, since 1995, a regular "Meinong Yellow Butterfly Festival" has been held at the proposed site of the reservoir on the Shuangsi River to promote environmental education. In 2004, an "International Conference on Dam Alternatives" was held, realizing the benefits of previous exchanges by bringing in scholars and experts to Taiwan to share knowledge and experience from overseas.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The project was stopped by the government after much local protest.
Sources and Materials

[1] Is Taiwan's political and economic development an environmental nightmare?. Govindasamy Agoramoorthy & Minna J. Hsu. Environmental Politics, 16, 2007.
[click to view]

Liang, H. 1993. ‘Fighting to save Taiwan's Yellow Butterfly Valley’. World Rivers Review, 8(3): 11

Retracing the Meinung anti-dam movement in Taiwan. Chung, HM. 2006. Thesis

[2] Cultural Production of Environmental Activism: Two Cases in Southern Taiwan. Jeffrey Hou. Ph.D. Candidate. Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning. University of California Berkeley. 2000
[click to view]

Epistemic communities and grassroots movements. The case of Meinung dam. 2004. Thesis, Carleton University. Courtney Beaubien. (Analysis of the role of outside international experts).


[3] Taiwan Today, A Hakka Town Through and Through. April 01, 2013
[click to view]

Media Links

Song on the Meinung dam. To those who give a dam, Mu Qian 2008-04-11. Songs about farmers' lives in Hakka dialect may not sound trendy, but Taiwan Hakka singer Lin Sheng-xiang's music has not only won him four Golden Melody Awards in pop-dominated Taiwan, but also taken him to perform throughout Asia, Europe and America.
[click to view]

Taipei Times, 25 June 2000, Born in the anti-Meinung Dam movement and lauded as one of the best groups of 1999, Labor Exchange has stayed true to its roots and remains one of Taiwan's only protest bands. By Yu Sen-lun.
[click to view]

Other Documents

The Meinong People’s Association holds a ceremony in Yellow Butterfly Valley each year to promote awareness of the need to conserve natural areas. (Photo Courtesy of Meinong People’s Association)[3]
[click to view]

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Last update22/10/2018