When economic growth and environmental protection are in conflict, “we have to give up economic development, because protection of the environment and sustainable development are more important than pursuing economic growth,” Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said yesterday.
Hau was speaking to a group of EMBA students as part of the Taipei-Shanghai City Forum. Hau previously served as head of the Environmental Protection Administration.
In answer to questions from the students, Hau said he often tells his Chinese friends that China does not need to follow the path of Taiwan when pursuing the goal of a clean environment, because Taiwan had “treaded a hard road” that is not worth repeating.
He gave as an example that Taiwan had allowed heavy metals to pollute its environment while promoting the “home as factory” policy in pursuit of economic growth.
The result is that Taiwan has had to spend more money cleaning up the environment than it had made from the micro-processing industry, he said.
He cited another example, which occurred when he was environment minister.
“Kaohsiung, the largest city in southern Taiwan, could not offer potable water to its residents because the upstream area of the Gaoping River (高屏溪) was polluted by 600,000 hogs raised for export to Japan,” he said.
Farmers made just NT$1,000 [US$33] profit when selling a hog, but the government had to spend NT$1,700 per hog to clean up the waste from hog farms, Hau said.
“Simple math tells us that in order to serve Japanese consumers, we had lost NT$700 by exporting one single hog to Japan, in addition to polluting our own environment. That’s why we decided to spend NT$6 billion to convince farmers to quit the dirty hog farming industry,” Hau said.
He said China should remember that when pursuing economic growth, “you must factor in the environment.”
“If the two are in conflict with each other, I’d suggest that you give up economic development because the most important thing is the protection of the environment, which leads to sustainable development,” he said.