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Miaoli road project sent back for review by EPA

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday sent back the Miaoli County Government's bypass road project in order to plan better conservation measures for leopard cats that are in danger of extinction.

The road project was discussed in an environmental impact assessment (EIA) evaluation meeting yesterday while environmental protection activists protested against the project in front of EPA Headquarters.

The head of Miaoli County's Sanyi Township Office also led local residents to gather in front of EPA Headquarters to show their support for the bypass road project.

Chen Zueng-sang, a member of the EIA committee, said that the project developer should consult with experts and the public regarding whether or not it is necessary to construct the bypass.

Green Party spokesman Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) said that there are about 400 to 600 leopard cats left in Taiwan, and most of them live in the mountainous areas of Miaoli.

“However, leopard cats' habitats in Miaoli are being destroyed and occupied due to projects that aim to develop those areas,” said Pan. “The bypass road project is like a sharp knife that will cut into the major habitats of leopard cats.”

Kurtis Pei (裴家騏), a professor at the Institute of Wildlife Conservation of the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, said that leopard cats do not have any habitats in national parks or preservation areas so far, so losing those habitats would make the task of protecting the endangered animal even harder.

The Taiwan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) said even though the project developer proposed a measure to build an ecological corridor, it is not a solution for all kinds of species.

According to protesters, the bypass road that will run 8 kilometers will cost the government NT$5.2 billion, which is a heavy burden on taxpayers.

After the Tongluo ramp was opened for traffic in 2012, the protesters contend, the highways can act as the bypass road, which makes the bypass road project unnecessary.

Taipei Zoo spokesman Eric Tsao (曹先紹) said that leopard cats' habitats are close to humans' living areas, and the issue of stray animals also makes it more difficult for the endangered feline to survive.

Miaoli Magistrate Promises to Protect Leopard Cats

Miaoli County Magistrate Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) said yesterday that the government will be responsible for protecting leopard cats while promoting the bypass road project which is crucial to Sanyi Township.

According to Liu, the provincial highways inside the township are about 10 meters in width, which often causes traffic jams during rush hours and holidays.

Liu said that the bypass road project actually targets the area around residences, and the government also scheduled a 40-hectare ecological conservation area to be created in order to protect all the wild life in the area.

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A group of protesters gathers outside of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) in Taipei, yesterday. The EPA sent back the Miaoli County Government's bypass road project in order to plan better conservation measures for leopard cats that are in danger of extinction. (CNA)

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