Moving cables underground
Two typhoons hit the nation either side of the Mid-Autumn Festival holiday, leaving destruction in their wake. Many areas were left without electricity and water.
If the water supply is turned off, you can buy bottled water. Food and other staples can be bought in shops. Electricity is another matter entirely.
Without electricity, food stored in refrigerators and freezers will spoil and, when the sun goes down, people are left scrabbling around in the dark.
It has got to the point that, every time a typhoon hits, power cuts in the affected areas are almost a foregone conclusion. The answer lies in laying power cables underground.
Nobody is suggesting that this would put an end to the problem of power cuts entirely, but it would certainly reduce the problem.
The government says this measure would be far too expensive, but surely it gets just as expensive in resources, equipment and manpower trying to restore the electricity supply every time there is a typhoon.
In the past decade alone, the money spent on restoring power would be enough to lay cables underground in a good few regions.
Laying cables underground would have several advantages: It would reduce power outages caused by typhoons, improve the look of our cities and make driving safer.
I say to central and local government officials, when you see how many residents are affected by power outages caused by typhoons, is it not time to start considering the viability of laying power cables underground?
Stop Formosa Chemicals
On Wednesday, the coal-burning permit for Formosa Chemicals & Fibre Corp’s Changhua County plant is set to expire. Formosa Chemicals has consistently failed to fulfil the promises it made in an environmental impact assessment dating back 15 years and the Changhua County Government finally displayed some courage, rejecting a series of 28 separate applications submitted by Formosa Chemicals to extend the deadline.
However, the central government has expressed concern over the case and the county government appears to be giving itself wriggle room by allowing Formosa Chemicals to continue submitting additional documentation. It seems that the county government is leaving the door open to the possibility that the company would be able to continue operating its Changhua plant.
Last Saturday, Changhua residents marched to demand that the government refuse Formosa Chemicals’ request for a new permit.
Air pollution has been classified by the WHO as the most important single environmental cause of disease. In recent years, Taiwanese have become more knowledgable about the dangers of airborne pathogens; consequently, record numbers participated in the march. It was a clear demonstration that large numbers of Taiwanese want change and want the government to solve the problem of air pollution.
Of course, the public is aware that improving air quality will take time and implementing additional pollution prevention measures cannot be achieved overnight — but is 15 years not long enough?
Everyone agrees that the government must govern according to the law. The local government is legally entitled to examine whether there is a valid case to grant an extension of the existing permit. As a result, it asked Formosa Chemicals to reduce pollution levels and put in place additional pollution prevention measures to be granted a new permit.
This request was the bare minimum that the government could have asked for.
Since Formosa Chemicals has failed to implement even the most basic, simplest of remedial measures, if the Changhua County Government continues to allow the plant to operate by burning highly toxic, sulfur-containing dirty coal in a densely populated area, it will be difficult to have any faith in the government’s bold promise of a “coal-free Changhua.”
The simplest way to resolve the issue is for the government to first reject the permit and wait for Formosa Chemicals to improve its facility while the plant is temporarily shut down, then reassess the situation once remedial work is completed. As for the rights of workers at the plant, since a shutdown would be the fault of the management at Formosa Chemicals, which has failed in its corporate social responsibility, management should continue to pay their salaries during the shutdown.
This would be a win-win strategy for both the local government and the public. The only impact would be felt by the management at the corporation, with a tiny loss of profit to be sustained in the short-term.
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