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Students appeal to President Ma to save Taoyuan algal reef

TAIPEI -- A group of elementary school students from southern Taiwan have taken their concerns over a precious strip of algal reef to the country's top administrators with 120 postcards addressed to President Ma Ying-jeou and other officials.

On Tuesday, 30 students from the National University of Tainan's Affiliated Elementary School sent the postcards calling for protection of the reef in Taoyuan, northern Taiwan, to Ma and Premier Jiang Yi-huah, Executive Yuan Deputy Secretary-General Chien Tai-lang and Forestry Bureau Director-General Lee Tao-sheng.

The young activists are taking part in a campaign launched June 14 that encourages students to urge presidential action to protect the 7,500-year-old reefs, which are vital for preserving local marine ecosystems and grow at a slow rate of only 0.1 centimeters a year.

The campaign received a positive response from the president. “President Ma has learned about the matter and is touched by the students' efforts,” the Presidential Office said in a statement.

The president will take immediate action to address the issue, the office said.

Chang Ching-chieh, the man behind the postcard campaign, noted that the endangered algal reefs along Taoyuan County's coastline are featured in the hit documentary “Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above,” in which they are shown fading from their original red into pale white and grey.

Algal reefs take up only 50 kilometers of Taiwan's 1,600-kilometer coastline, he said. In Taoyuan, 23 kilometers of the 27-kilometer strip is already ecologically dead, and the remaining 4 kilometers are threatened by industrial pollution, he cautioned.

He said that the county government had planned to designate a wild animal protection zone in the algal reef zone, but he hopes it can become a nature conservation zone instead to better protect the delicate reefs.

The Forestry Bureau is planning a meeting for Jan. 2, 2014 to discuss the matter and an initial resolution is likely to be made, Chang said, adding that he hopes that central and local governments will not choose to give up environmental protection for the sake of economic development.

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