Around the Chinese New Year season in 1991, the Yami people rose up in protests which caught the attention of the media and public in all of Taiwan. Led by Kuo JIan-ping, a Yami Presbyterian missionary, and with the support of anti-nuclear groups in Taiwan like the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union and the Green Association, the Yami anti-nuclear group held demonstrations on Orchid Island and in Taipei, where they carried a protest letter straight to the Taiwan Power Company. (3). The Yami protest letter contained three requests: 1) the expansion of the second phase of construction on the waste site be stopped; 2) the immediate stoppage of transport of nuclear waste from Taiwan to the Orchid Island storage site; 3) by June 30, 1991, the shutdown of the storage site. Their first request was met, although there are likely other factors involved besides the protests. But the peration of the storage site continued despite the opposition.
Local environmental movements in Taiwan have succeeded in slowing or halting a number of recent corporate global industrial projects including the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant near Taipei, megadam projects in central and south of Taiwan, petrochemical industry projects, and the Miramar Resort Village . Other projects that environmentalists are protesting against, are the construction or expansi on of large industrial facilities, so called science parks, in the central counties of Changhua , Maioli and Yunlin. Environmentalists are fighting enormous odds (2).
How do issues of environmental justice play out in conditions of unequal power and cultural diversity? According to Prof. Fan, Mei-Fang, this question can be explored (1) using the case of the controversy surrounding the storage of nuclear waste on Orchid Island, Taiwan, the homeland of the Yami aborigines.
A report by WISE (3) , in 1992, explained that Orchid Island, 65 km off Taiwan's southeast coast, is the homeland of the Yami people, one of Taiwan's nine aboriginal tribes. The Yami have traditionally supported themselves with agriculture (primarily taro) and fishing, although tourism is also a big part of the economy. There are some 2900 Yami people, but only about 2000 people live on Orchid Island today. (1992). For geographical and political reasons, the Yami have historically been the most isolated of Taiwan's aboriginal tribes.
The Need for a Nuclear Dump
In a case of extreme environmental injustice, in the early 1970s, Taiwan's Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) convened a group of experts to examine various sites for a temporary storage facility for mid- and low-level nuclear waste. (3) In 1974, this committee chose the Long Men (Dragon Gate) area on the southern tip of Orchid Island. A harbor was built in 1978, construction began on the depository 1980, and shipments began arriving in May of 1982. The site became the depository for mid- and low-level nuclear waste from Taiwan's three nuclear plants as well as nuclear medical and research centers. To date (1992), over 90,000 containers, each weighing 50 kg, have been stored there. (The Orchid Island facility is only for mid- and low-level radwaste. Taiwan's spent fuel radioactive waste is stored at the nuclear plants themselves.) (3).