Connect to share and comment

In our backyard? Sure.

Special Report: Why one remote Taiwan village is giving nuclear waste the red carpet treatment.

NANTIAN VILLAGE, Taiwan — They tried sending it to North Korea. They tried sending it to China.

Now, they're trying to send it to this remote seaside village in southeast Taiwan.

Like nuclear energy-using countries worldwide, Taiwan is struggling to find a final resting place for its radioactive nuclear waste.

Strange to say, many villagers here are willing to accept the toxic duty. The reasons, according to village chief Chang Chih-hsin, and other residents: Money and development.

"Some people nearby are protesting, but here in the village, most people support it," said Chang, in an interview at the village office.

Critics of the plan say this poor village is merely being bought off by the government's generous compensation proposal, and is low-balling the health risks.

The debate highlights the growing problem of nuclear waste, as more nations — and especially, neighboring China — turn to this "cleaner" energy source to fuel their economies.

It also points to a global phenomenon. Whether it's inner-city America or a remote Aboriginal village in Taiwan, toxic and other waste often ends up dumped near the poorest, most marginalized communities.

In Taiwan, Nantian Village is about as poor and marginal as they come. Tucked between vaulting mountains and the pounding Pacific on Taiwan's southeast coast, only pokey local trains bother to stop anywhere nearby.

Of the 360 villagers, only some 10 percent have completed high school. Most grow coconuts, betel nuts and melons, in a narrow strip of cultivable land.

Three-quarters of them are Aborigines, meaning they hunted, fished and farmed here long before Chinese settlers showed up four centuries ago. Genetically, they're closer to native Filipinos.

The village consists of a strip of low-slung buildings, a crumbling community center, and agitated dogs. There's the occasional totem of the "100-pacer" snake, which the Paiwan tribe worships as a god. (The name is a reference to how far you can walk before dropping dead, after one of the venomous serpents bites you.)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/china-and-its-neighbors/090416/our-backyard-sure