Recently, the legislature passed the third reading of an amendment to the Water Pollution Control Act (水污染防治法). The proposal greatly reduces the fines for water pollution by industrial animal farming facilities from between NT$60,000 and NT$600,000 to between NT$6,000 and NT$120,000.
Many people were shocked that the amendment was passed, and it made those of us working on the environmental education and research team at National Cheng Kung University's College of Social Sciences very angry. We want to voice our strong objection to the amendment to the legislature.
After the proposal passed, the legislators who had supported it claimed that dealing with water pollution by other industries and by industrial animal farming separately would help the development of animal farming, while remaining in line with principles of justice and fairness. There are a lot of problems with this explanation and it is unacceptable.
The proposed amendment is not in line with principles of justice and fairness. We would rather have no animal farming industry at all than one whose development depended on the possibility of polluting rivers with wastewater and damaging our health.
If a highly polluting animal industry has to be developed, then it is only right that those operating in and profiting from that industry should be made to carry the cost.
Pollution of the environment must be prevented and industry operators must be required to come up with plans to somehow compensate for the pollution or clean it up.
Another option would be to shift the cost of controlling or cleaning up the pollution onto the consumer.
Only under these conditions can highly polluting pig farms be allowed to exist. Passing the proposed amendment without such complementary measures goes completely against the principles of fairness and justice.
The proposal is also not fair for people who live in or near the polluted areas. Rivers polluted by wastewater from animal husbandry destroy the ecology and contaminate the drinking water supply of local residents.
This means that aside from the fact that water pollution is harmful to the environment, it can also be a direct threat to human health.
Even more unreasonable is the fact that apart from having to suffer the consequences of pollution, the residents of a polluted area are also made to pay taxes to clean it up, even as they are forced to accept polluted sources of drinking water.
Furthermore, in 2000, it cost the central government a lot of effort and NT$6 billion (US$186 million) to clean up the nation's rivers.
Passing this proposal comes down to declaring that government efforts and the investment made by taxpayers to improve the environment was completely in vain.
This proposal is particularly unfair to the residents of Tainan City and Tainan County. Media reports say the Erjen River (二仁溪) and the Yenshui River (鹽水溪) are important pig farming areas and most likely to be affected.
If the Tainan area is really so highly polluted, residents of Tainan City, including myself, should speak up and protest. We feel that the river and the people's rights have been sold for profit by the legislators who approved this proposal.
Residents of the Tainan area have worked hard to establish various organizations to help protect the local environment.
It would be a great pity if all their work came to naught as a result of this proposal.
The proposal clearly violates principles of justice.
The question is, why would the legislature pass such a proposal, and just what is wrong with our system?
The most logical explanation for this is that the discussion and passing of legislation lacks transparency, effectiveness and supervision. This allowed lobby groups to successfully convince legislators to pass the amendment on behalf of the nation's pig farmers.
It would be a good idea to publish the names of the legislators who were for and against the proposal.
This would put them in the spotlight and submit them to the strictest scrutiny.
Under supervision and with the assistance of public welfare groups, these destroyers of the environment will have no place to hide.
Chen Jenn-yeu is a convener of the environmental education and research team at National Cheng Kung University. Yang Yung-nane is vice-convener of the same team.
Translated by Anna Stiggelbout
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