Mon, Mar 30, 2009 - Page 2 News List

EPA outlines community goals

WORKING TOGETHER The EPA chief said it is time to move beyond clean-ups and hygiene to focus on making local communities more attractive and greener places

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) announced yesterday that it will spend NT$4.8 billion (US$160 million) over the next six years on a “Sustainable and First-class Environmental Hygiene Program” to help cultivate a society that is sustainable, healthy and comfortable to live in.

Environmentalists, however, criticized the policy as simply a way for the agency “to spend its budget.”

Environmental Protection Administration Minister Steven Shen (沈世宏) said environmental protection efforts should move beyond a pursuit of cleanliness and basic hygiene, so his agency’s goal will be to develop an environment that is good for both the body and the mind to live in.

“Our plan is to outdo Japan and catch up with Switzerland and become the Switzerland of the Orient,” Shen said.

Environmental protection has meant for the most part cleaning up the environment and preventing epidemics, he said.

But since that goal has been reached for the most part, the EPA’s goal for the next six years will be to involve community members to work together so their neighborhoods could attain the EPA’s 14 “Sustainable Environmental Hygiene Indexes (環境衛生永續指標),” he said.

The EPA’s Web page says the indexes include maintaining the cleanliness of public bathrooms, establishing a system for managing pets and pet waste, greening community sidewalks and open areas, constructing localized public amenities for community residents and tidying residential peripherals.

For example, while communities that attain at least one index guideline will be eligible to apply for a subsidy of up to NT$200,000, 13 cities and counties could receive NT$5 million in subsidies to replace old or broken street-sweeping trucks.

“Model communities” — those that meet seven or more index guidelines — would be eligible to compete for five subsidies totaling NT$9.75 million.

Under the guidelines, placing unattended potted plants in public areas, which will be banned from July 1, will be a violation of the “tidying up residential peripherals” clause.

The president of the Zhonghe Community Development Association in Taipei City’s Beitou (北投) District, Tsai Tsong-min (蔡聰敏), welcomed the program yesterday. He said his association has applied for various funds from governmental agencies in the past few years to help beautify its neighborhood.

However, Green Party Taiwan Secretary-General Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) said the new EPA policy sounded redundant.

“First, why is the work not done by the existing system — the EPA’s cleaning team? We are not clear why the government is announcing a policy like this now, but this sounds like the EPA just wants to spend off its budget,” Pan said. “Also, cleaning up the community should be controlled from the source; the government should promote less spending and buying less so that waste can be reduced.”

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