Citizen of the Earth Foundation yesterday called on the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) to propose stricter measures to control air pollution, and urged that air quality forecasts be added to daily weather forecasts on TV.
During a news conference at the foundation’s office in Taipei, several Kaohsiung-based environmentalists demanded that the government protect their right to breathe clean air.
“According to official EPA figures, there are a total of 161 days [on average per year] with poor air quality, with 73 percent detected by air quality tracking stations in central and southern Taiwan,” Citizen of the Earth Foundation deputy executive director Wang Min-ling (王敏玲) said. “Of the total of 161 days, nearly 50 percent were detected in Greater Kaohsiung and Pingtung County.”
Wang pointed out that the poor air quality in the south is caused by heavy industries in Kaohsiung and Pingtung, and urged the government to come up with stricter measures on air quality control.
Hsieh Pei-ying (謝佩穎), a pediatrician based in Kaohsiung, said that poor air quality is especially dangerous for children, and can trigger respiratory disease in the young.
“Common problems caused by poor air quality include frequent coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue and lung disease,” Hsieh said.
Chou Meng-kuei (周盟桂), who commutes by bicycle, said that cycling in Kaohsiung can be very trying due to the air pollution, and that surgical masks are a must for cyclists in the city.
“I have some friends who suffered from respiratory problems for years, but somehow they recovered as soon as they moved away from Kaohsiung for a period of time,” Chou said. “This shows how big a health threat the air quality is in the area.”
Citizen of the Earth chairman Lee Ken-cheng (李根政) pointed out that environmentalists have called on the EPA to enforce tougher air quality controls for more than a decade, “but the EPA has always rejected our call due to opposition from the Ministry of Economic Affairs [MOEA].”
“The MOEA is opposed to it because officials are worried that it may have a negative impact on economic development — but we think maintaining a healthy population is also an important issue,” Lee said. “The residents of Kaohsiung and Pingtung deserve to breathe clean air.”
Lee added that the foundation has launched a petition campaign to pressure the government to act.