Stricter environmental impact assessment (EIA) regulations are expected in the near future, especially for projects proposed in sensitive areas such as wetlands and in the mountains, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday.
The administration said measures would also be taken to prevent projects from escaping the EIA process.
When asked whether the amendments were a response to the scandal surrounding the Maokong Gondola, which circumvented an EIA and was recently shut down for major repairs, EPA Deputy Director-General of the Comprehensive Planning Department Liu Tsong-yung (劉宗勇) said: “This is not the result of a particular case; we are doing an overall evaluation of the current laws.”
Since the EIA regulations were established in 1994, rules regarding which types of proposals must undergo reviews have been amended eight times to include a wider variety of projects, such as hotels, mines and incinerators, Liu said.
“In 2006, cable cars were also added to the list,” he said.
In addition to expanding the list, the EPA also plans to tighten rules to prevent projects from escaping review, he said.
“For example, developments on hillsides need to go through an EIA if they cover more than 2 hectares, but we have seen proposals for projects measuring 1.98 hectares or even 1.9999 hectares [to bypass the review]. We want to amend the rules to prevent this,” he said.
The amendment will also emphasize proposals that involve sensitive ecological systems, such as wetlands, fall within national parks, or affect reservoirs, he said.
Asked whether the Maokong Gondola would need to undergo a review after the regulations were changed, Liu said it depended on what the Taipei City Government did with the cable car.
If the city relocates the pillars, the project may need to be undergo a review this time around, he said.
In related news, the EPA yesterday also unveiled an updated online archive of documents from current and past EIAs.
Making the information easily accessible to interested parties will increase the transparency of the system, the EPA said.
“Currently there are about 2,000 complete and ongoing EIA cases,” Liu said.
The Web site provides the summary, conclusions, full contents and attachments for each EIA case and lists the coming week’s meetings on EIAs, he said.
With the new electronic archive, the public is free to search for, read and print the information, Liu said.
“This will be a good communication platform for environmentalists, the public, developers or anyone interested in certain development projects,” he said.