Tue, Nov 18, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Legislators question waste management policy

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTING

Legislators yesterday accused the Environmental Protection Admini-stration (EPA) of wasting taxpayers' money, saying that at least NT$16 billion would be lost if the EPA's waste incinerator policy were to be carried out.

At a meeting convened by the Sanitation and Environment Committee and the Social Welfare Committee, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hsu Chung-hsiung (徐中雄) said it was unnecessary to build more incinerators, because only 70 percent of the total capacity of the existing incinerators is being used. The EPA should promote regional cooperation on waste management, rather than building more incinerators, Hsu said.

EPA head Chang Juu-en (張祖恩) said the number of planned incinerators has been reduced to 30 from the original 36 following criticism from the public.

"It's a reasonable revision, because we can't expect waste to just disappear. We have no choice but to manage it," Chang said.

At the meeting, the EPA's policy came under fire from legislators belonging to diverse political parties, including the Democratic Progressive Party's Eugene Jao (趙永清), Taiwan Solidarity Union's Chien Lin Whei-jun (錢林慧君), People First Party's Cheng San-yun (鄭三元) and others.

The EPA has been refusing to cancel incinerator projects for years, claiming that contractors would have to be compensated for their losses, but a recent report of the Legislative Yuan's Sustainable Development Committee suggests that this would not really save taxpayers' money.

According to the report, the total cost of seven planned incinerators is about NT$27 billion, which includes the construction and operational costs for 20 years. If these projects were cancelled, the total financial loss would be about NT$10.8 billion, including NT$3.8 billion compensation to contractors and NT$7 billion operation fees for handling the waste for 20 years.

Legislators are planning to officially freeze the NT$3.04 billion budget proposed by the EPA for three months at a meeting on Wednesday. The budget is for the EPA to manage incinerator-related affairs next year.

Chang said that insufficient incinerator capacity would lead to overuse of landfills, which would increase the risk of groundwater contamination.

"Potential environmental risks can't be quantified in terms of money," Chang said.

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