Sat, Nov 30, 2013 - Page 4 News List

Premier pledges to act on environment

’IRON FIST’:Jiang Yi-huah’s comments were inspired by the film ‘Beyond Beauty,’ but activists say the government is paying mere lip service to environmental quandaries

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporters

Members of several environmental protection groups hold a press conference outside the Executive Yuan in Taipei yesterday. They called on the government to halt construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, the Taoyuan Aerotropolis, the second phase of the Danhai New Town development project and the development of dam catchment areas.

Photo: CNA

A much-talked-about documentary depicting how the nation’s environment has been ravaged prompted Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) to demand that Cabinet officials “take an iron fist” to environmental problems, Executive Yuan Deputy Secretary-General Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) said yesterday.

Chien told a press conference following an intergovernmental meeting that Jiang has ordered Cabinet members to carry through “forcefully” policies that have become necessary because environmental preservation is a task that “allows for no delay.”

The Cabinet yesterday held the first meeting of an ad hoc task force led by Chien and attended by vice heads of related government branches.

Jiang ordered the establishment of the task force after he attended a screening of the film Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above (看見台灣) by Chi Po-lin (齊柏林) that documents Taiwan by using aerial photography.

Government agencies were divided into five teams to work on 16 major national conservation issues exposed by the documentary and will present an initial report to Jiang in one month, Chien said.

Among the issues were illegal mining of gravel and sand, sediments in water reservoirs, land subsidence induced by pumping excessive underground water, excessive hillside development and river pollution, he said.

The task force categorized the 16 issues into four topics — mining of sand and gravel, management of coasts and hillsides, environmental quality and development in sensitive areas — with government branches related to each of the topics being assembled in a group to work on the issues, Chien said.

The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Interior were in the fifth group, charged with ensuring necessary enforcement measures take place to crack down on illegal activities that damage the environment, he added.

The task force will meet every two weeks to draft short, medium and long-term solutions to environmental problems, Chien said.

“We will take a holistic approach and not just focus on the 16 problems,” he added.

Earlier yesterday about a dozen representatives from environmental groups protested outside the Executive Yuan and accused the government of continuing environmental destruction.

The film shows how state land is being excessively developed, and the damage caused by illegal gravel mining or inappropriate land use, but the Cabinet is still trying to amend laws that would loosen restrictions on development in reservoir water catchment areas, the protesters said.

Taiwan Environmental Protection Union founding chairman Shih Hsin-min (施信民) said that if the government really watches the film and “sees Taiwan” (the literal translation of the film’s Chinese name), it would cancel the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, retire nuclear plants currently in operation, stop destroying high-quality farmland and stop any development in water catchment areas, among other measures.

Wang Chung-ming (王鐘銘), spokesman for a self-help group against land expropriation for the Danhai New Town phase-two project, said the vacancy rate is already very high in the new town’s phase-one area, yet the government still wants to develop the 1,168-hectare second-phase area that will include 871 hectares of farmland or forest land, “which will destroy natural ecology and human rights.”

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