Academia Sinica opposes planned plant on wetland

DIRTY CRACKER: An official at the institution said it was his responsibility to oppose the plant because he was on a committee that approved a polluting naphtha cracker


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 - Page 11

A proposal by 18 Academia Sinica research fellows opposing a petrochemical complex that Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co (國光石化科技) plans to build on ­Changhua County coastal wetlands will be submitted to the government, its initiators said yesterday.

The academic institution’s general assembly approved the proposal on July 7.

The institution will initially refer the proposal to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Environmental Protection Administration, said Chou Chang-hung (周昌弘), head of Academia Sinica’s Life Sciences Division, and former National Science Council minister Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) — two of the proposal’s initiators.

The proposal states that to protect public health and the local ecology, as well as to realize the national policy of energy conservation and carbon reduction, the government should suspend plans for further petrochemical plants because they produce huge amounts of carbon dioxide.


It also presents three points to justify opposition to the plan.

First, conservationists have proposed establishing a public trust fund to buy the coastal wetlands near the mouth of the Jhuoshuei River to foil Kuokuang’s plan to buy the property for construction of the 4,000 hectare petrochemical complex.

Second, scientific investigations have proven that the Sixth Naphtha Cracker Plant in Yunlin County’s Mailiao (麥寮), which has been in operation since 1999, is a health threat to residents in six townships in the southern-­central county.

Third, because the petrochemical industry is the prime culprit of global warming, the proposal calls on the government to ban further petrochemical plants so that Taiwan can reach global carbon-reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

Chou said it was his responsibility to oppose the plant because he served as a member of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) committee for the sixth naphtha cracker project about 20 years ago and witnessed its negative impact on local residents and the environment.

Chou said he originally believed that science could resolve all pollution problems, but it was later proven that the plant was the cause of numerous cases of cancer and other illnesses.

“It is a fact beyond argument, and I am sorry I agreed to be part of the project,” Chou said.

Saying that 40 tonnes of water would be used every day if the petrochemical complex is built, Chou asked “if it is a reasonable and sustainable policy” to build petrochemical plants using taxpayers’ money and public land, when doing so adversely impacts agriculture and creates devastating pollution.

As a member of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) under the International Council for Science, Chou will hold a meeting of Taiwan’s SCOPE members later this month to discuss the Kuokuang project and publicize the controversy.


Meanwhile, on the same day, university professors who launched a similar drive against the plant said they had collected about 540 signatures for a petition against it.

The academics said they would hold a press conference in coming days to explain their reasons for opposing the project and to expound on the plant’s possible negative impact.