Thu, Oct 07, 2010 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTERS ]

2010 Consensus

I am distressed to learn that the opposition parties might not participate in the Double Ten National Day celebration for political reasons. Every country needs a national day and Taiwan is no exception. Perhaps the problem could be solved by a “2010 Consensus”: One national day, different interpretations.

Arthur Waldron

Taipei

Ecological disaster awaits

The recent spill in Hungary of 700,000m3 of toxic red mud, a combination of soil, chemicals and heavy metals, should act as a clear warning to Taiwanese about the dangers of the corporatization and industrialization of landfill dumping.

Taiwan, a country with a large heavy industry, has had a recent string of disasters, both natural and man-made. The combination of being in a typhoon zone, as well as having a history of negligent corporations and a soft-toothed Environmental Protection Agency, has lead to a number of small-scale ecological disasters.

These range from the fires at Formosa Plastics Group and its affiliate Nan Ya Plastics Corp, a series of incidents where students complained of toxic air from factories located close to school grounds and the recent scaffolding collapse, which killed several highway construction workers: Health and safety seem to come a distant second to corporate savings.

Hence, in this context of a lack of oversight in the development of large scale industrial projects, the building of a new landfill in Tainan County’s Longci Township (龍崎) is indeed cause for concern.

A landfill, in the middle of a typhoon zone, would be prone to -overflow, and like the lake of toxic slurry in Hungary, it would be liable to cause a massive ecological problem for the residents of Longci.

While the waste management company tasked with building and operating the site has an eye on profit making, the cost of any post-accident clean up would be shouldered by the taxpayers rather than the company, who stands to gain in the short term by cutting the building costs. It is for these very reasons that not only should those in Tainan be up in arms about the building of the Longci landfill, but all Taiwanese should be wary of such a culture of heavy polluting industry.

Proponents of the landfill argue that the project will benefit the economy by providing jobs (30 to 50) and returning money to the citizens of Tainan through taxation. However, such moves are placating measures that mask the real concerns. It creates the spurious argument that economy is of more value than ecology and that heavy polluting is justified if it is economically viable.

This is a specious argument that attempts to quantify standards of living with a numeric value. This argument also fails to address the very criticism that is being levied at the landfill project, which is not whether the project is economically viable, but whether the project is safe.

When a culture of permissiveness is developed, favoring corporate interests over the public’s, it is only a matter of time before Taiwan will be hitting international headlines with its own ecological disaster.

ROBERT HYLAND

Gushan, Kaohsiung City

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