Monday, May 08, 2006

Nan Wan Beach: Beauty and the Beasts

This image was originally posted here.

{This article was originally published in the May Issue of 24/7 Magazine, which isn't nearly as pornographic as it used to be. I have put all of these articles together in the sidebar under 24/7 Rants.}

About three weeks ago, my girlfriend and I went down to Kenting to teach a three day film course to eighty-odd students from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. It was a lot of work and before we left Taiwan’s southern paradise we stopped at Nan Wan (Southern Bay) for one last look. Here is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, the east coast being mostly rock cliffs and the west coast slowly de-militarizing. It’s 600 meters of white sands looking out to nothing but sea. I thought to myself; Beauty and the Beasts.

There are a multitude of beasties currently residing on Nan Wan. The first is the Maanshan Nuclear Power Plant, which is oddly located inside the national park. The Ministry of the Interior argues that the existence of the reactor predates the founding of the park; the Maanshan reactor went online in 1984, while the park was not established until late 1986.

So there it sits; a huge radioactive grandfather clause that no one on the beach seems to notice anyways. According to the United Nations Environment Program, “The land occupied by the Third Nuclear Power Plant is excised from the national park.” (1) So I guess it’s not even technically in the park. What’s there to worry about? It hasn’t caught fire since 2001.

The World Wildlife Fund says, “Habitat in Kenting National Park is threatened by many activities including agriculture, mining, road construction, and thermal pollution from a nearby nuclear power plant.” (2)

However the nuclear plant runs a lot of air conditioners, and isn’t going anywhere. Besides, it’s quiet, won’t kill instantly, and is aesthetically bordered by two wind turbines. At least they are paying a nod to less dangerous (and regrettably less efficient) methods of power production.

The beasts I’m referring to are found on the beach and in the waters. Nan Wan at dusk looks like a farmer’s collective with all the little tractors making their way up and down the beach, in constant danger of hitting one of the ATV’s careening along, weaving drunkenly in between sunbathers and sand-castleers. The tractors and the ATV’s are just the prelude, the support staff for the true comedy of terrors; the PWC’s.

PWC’s are personal water craft, better known by their brand names; Waverunners, Seadoos, Jet Skis, Whaledenters, or Oilshitters. They look like marine snowmobiles. According to the lady with the bin lang soiled metal teeth who tried to rent one to me, there are around sixty of the craft on Nan Wan alone and they rent for 1600 an hour.

I’m a swimmer, by nature but I believe my views on these little Antichrists to be shared by sailors, surfers, paddlers and sunbathers alike. You’re swimming through the water, unwinding from the concrete jungle when suddenly the air is full of violence; Japanese zeroes seem to be dive bombing the beach, their wakes splashing salt water up your nose as they narrowly miss your face. Lucky there’s no propeller.

On the Kenting National Park government website, under the heading Important Information, it states, “According to Article 13 of the National Parks Law, the following behaviors are prohibited in the national parks: burning plants, (insert pot joke), hunting or fishing, polluting the air or water, picking flowers or damaging plants, carving in trees, rocks, or signs, littering, driving off designated roads, or any other behaviors prohibited by the administrative authority of national parks.” (3)

Now that bans pretty much everything in a vague sort of way, but it must certainly and quite specifically bar Joe Waverunner and his little buddy Sammy Seadoo. Polluting the air or water, it says it right there in Article 13. It is still a national park; don’t let the nuclear reactors fool you.

According to the Surfrider Foundation, a hundred horsepower PWC “doing donuts off the shore” creates more pollution in an hour than an average car after ten years (130 000 miles) of driving. (4) Whether or not that’s the case, the beasts are annoying and dangerous, and the waters off the nuclear reactor have enough to worry about.

Next time, I think I’ll bring my automatic BB guns down to this beach. With sixty Waverunners and Seadoos running on a beach this size it’s obvious anything goes. I’ll drink lots of Gaoliang and use the empties for target practice. Yeah, some kids could get hurt, but they could get hurt at school just as easily. You think kids should stop going to school? It will be so much fun for me and my drunken friends, and after all, we’re sportsmen! What‘s the worst thing that could happen? Maybe take out some kid’s eye or accidentally slaughter a newborn, or an old guy. It wouldn’t be on purpose. It would be sport.


(1) United Nations Environment Program
(2) World Wildlife Fund
(3) Kenting National Park Website
(4) Surfrider


Michael Turton said...

Sean, bad news. Get out your map of Kenting and pay close attention to the exact park boundaries. You will soon find that the beaches are private property and thus, I suspect, their waterfronts are exempt from most regulation. The protected areas are away from the water, along the roads and in the interior.

Nice little scam, Kenting National Park is.


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