Thu, Jun 22, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Environment is taking a beating

By Chang Kuo-tsai 張國財

In his documentary Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above (看見台灣), documentary filmmaker Chi Po-lin (齊柏林) captured numerous instances of environmental destruction and their consequences, bringing the issues to the attention of the public.

The movie was a poignant reminder of humanity’s hubris and ignorance.

If Chi had not passed away in a helicopter accident while shooting a sequel, he would have been able to document the environmental changes that have occurred since he filmed his first documentary only five to six years ago.

Nevertheless, some of his final observations on the nation’s environment remain emotionally powerful.

Last month, while flying across the Taroko National Park after shooting footage of whales off the east coast, Chi noticed that mining operations in the area had significantly reduced the size of a mountain.

He filmed footage of an Asia Cement Corp quarry and shared it with a friend, lamenting: “Asia Cement has dug even deeper than five years ago.”

Chi’s words were sad, but true.

In Taiwan, whenever a corporation gets its hands on a piece of pristine environment, nature always loses.

As a result, mountains are being destroyed.

Banping Mountain (半屏山), which straddles the border between Kaohsiung’s Zuoying (左營) and Nanzih (楠梓) districts has become a target of many quarries because it contains a large amount of limestone. More than a decade of mining operations in the area has entirely changed the local topography and reduced the height of the mountain from 233m to 181m. In a way, one could say that the mountain once known as Banping has now passed into history.

The Asia Cement quarry in Hualien County’s Sincheng Township (新城) near Taroko National Park has caused a 776m mountain to shrink to 295m.

In response to Chi’s remarks on the depth of the mining operation, the Bureau of Mines simply said that the company has not expanded its mining operations in the county.

It was clearly an attempt to divert the public’s attention from the scope of the operations.

However, the most ridiculous response has to be that of Far Eastern Group chairman Douglas Hsu (徐旭東), who insisted that digging deeper into the mountain is good for the local ecology, because a deep quarry could be turned into a big reservoir and used to raise fish.

That anyone would say such a thing is shocking.

Meanwhile, Hsu has repeatedly emphasized how much he loves Taiwan, but it is difficult for anyone not to disapprove of the way he is treating the nation that he claims to care for deeply.

Rivers and lakes are being contaminated.

Environmentalist group Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan in 2006 found that the Houjin River (後勁溪) in Kaohsiung contains hundreds of times more chlorinated organic chemicals than the legal limit permitted by the EU.

The group suspected that Formosa Plastics Corp’s petrochemical plant in Renwu District (仁武) was the source of the pollution, as samples matched those from the plant, which is located upstream of the site.

The company vigorously denied having illegally discharged wastewater into the river, adding that its wastewater is discharged into the ocean in Zihguan District (梓官) after being processed at a treatment plant at Dashe Industrial Park.

Based on experience, many would think that if a big corporation like Formosa Plastics adheres to the law — as the company claims it is doing — it would not break the law abroad.

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