Mon, Oct 25, 2010 - Page 8 News List

Policy must be future-oriented

By Chou Kuei-tien 周桂田

The above alternative would be so much better than the KPTC plant for reasons not directly related to the petrochemical industry. It will have benefits in terms of a reduced environmental impact, public health, food safety and the livelihood of fishermen. There would also be less risk of land subsidence and it would be possible to preserve natural coastal wetlands, as well as avoid other hitherto unknown dangers that could arise from building the plant.

Supporters of the KPTC proposal may well be bringing calamity on the petrochemical industry in Taiwan. Several top academics have already pointed out that there is a real danger the plant could end up in the sea as a result of global warming. We cannot ignore the potential dangers of building this plant: Local residents having to reinforce their homes every four years or so against land subsidence; damage to the foundations of supporting pillars along the high speed rail line; unjustifiable allocation of water resources; potential risk of food contamination; the threat to the livelihood of local fishermen; the destruction of world-class coastal wetlands; and the extinction of the Chinese white dolphin, which lives along Taiwan’s west coast and whose conservation even Beijing is committed to.

The ministry’s policy on environmental impact lacks both foresight and a sense of national direction. It seems tethered to the mindset that economic growth is king and the environment, public health and concerns over pollution be damned.

Unfortunately, we haven’t seen this sort of thing before. In 2005, when air pollution from a Taiwan Steel Union plant in Changhua was found to have dioxin levels 375 times EU standards, the director of the Industrial Development Bureau at the time blocked a directive from the Environmental Protection Administration to shut production at the plant down. The reason given was that such an action would have obstructed the Challenge 2008 Six-Year National Development Plan.

The question is, do we still need this kind of unsustainable economic development mentality?

The EIA for the KTPC project, is a testament to the questionable idea that without the proposed plant Taiwan will have to rely on Formosa Plastics for its ethylene production. Again, this is misleading. It effectively portrays Taiwan as some kind of third-world country riddled with corruption, where the government and business are in each other’s pockets and it is possible for one company to monopolize the market with no fair trade regulation or economic supervision.

Finally, given the magnitude of the issue, shouldn’t the government be holding public hearings so that people can be made aware of the various permutations being considered as the law says it should?

The government has recently tried to force its development agenda through with so-called “conditional EIAs.” It is clearly unacceptable that the largely discredited Environmental Impact Assessment Commission is handling such a contentious issue.

A few days ago, Public Television Service aired a documentary on the petrochemical industry. How is it that the government is not listening to the fears and concerns of the public? Isn’t their attitude incompatible with President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) Double Ten National Day speech, when he talked about respecting people’s rights to earn their own livelihoods and lead healthy lives?

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top