Mon, Jan 27, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Activists question green declaration

UNCONVINCED Many environmentalists doubt the government's commitment to building Taiwan into a `Green Silicon Island' through sustainable development


President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) pledge to promote sustainable development in Taiwan has failed to convince many environmentalists that his administration is sincere.

On Saturday, Chen signed the Taiwan Declaration on Sustainable Development, vowing to make the country's environment safe and turn Taiwan into a "Green Silicon Island."

The public was also invited to sign the declaration on a Web site set up by the Cabinet's National Council for Sustainable Development. However, within a day the declaration had been signed with more than 400 made-up names.

The names used homonyms of common Chinese surnames combined with other words that suggested the government was good only at coming up with slogans rather than acting on them. Examples included "No Policy," "Fake Conservation" and "Very Funny."

Conservationists and academics agree that the signatures of high-ranking officials on the declaration would not guarantee that the government could ultimately fulfill its goals.

"The Fourth Nuclear Power Plant under construction illustrates that many policies in Taiwan lack the spirit of sustainable development," said Shih Shin-min (施信民) of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union.

Since the DPP won power, environmentalists have been concerned about the government's equivocation on the controversial plant in Kungliao, Taipei County.

"We environmentalists condemn the hollow declaration on sustainable development because it might just be more lip service paid by the government," Shih said.

According to the Energy Commission under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, about 10 percent of Taiwan's energy could come from renewable sources by 2020 if laws awaiting approval in the Legislative Yuan are passed.

Environmentalists criticized the government for promising to promote renewable energy while continuing to build a nuclear plant, for which a nuclear waste dump has yet to be found.

The construction of the plant was already taking a toll on the environment near the site, activists said.

"Why do they build a wharf, where heavy machines for the plant will be loaded, on the beach, causing coastal erosion?" said Lai Wei-chieh (賴偉傑) of the Green Citizen Action Alliance.

Lai said that the construction made Kungliao residents dubious about the government's promises on sustainable development.

Officials of the Taiwan Power Company (Taipower), the builder of the plant, reiterated that the construction of the wharf was carried out only after a comprehensive study of its environmental impact. However, pictures taken by residents show that the beach has been vanishing since Taipower began building the wharf.

In Kungliao, activists said, there was no evidence of the government's sincerity in promising to preserve the coastline.

According to the Cabinet's hundreds of action plans on pursuing a sustainable future, a primary survey on Taiwan's coastline would not be finished until June next year.

Juju Wang (王俊秀), a sociology professor at National Tsing Hwa University, said details of the action plans needed to be revised.

Taking the government's policy of incinerating waste as an example, Wang said it contradicted the spirit of sustainable development because an effective partnership between civil society and the government had clearly not been established.

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has said that residents' complaints should be settled by local authorities rather than the EPA.

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