Sat, Mar 21, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Pollution fight may include driver bans on smoggy days

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Driving could be banned in several municipalities during days when dangerous levels of air pollution are detected, the Environmental Protection Administration said yesterday.

Department of Air Quality Protection and Noise Control Director-General Chen Hsien-heng (陳咸亨) made the remarks during an intergovernmental panel meeting in Taipei on air pollution.

The agency is in talks with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to work out the specifics of the rule, which would target private vehicles during rush hours, he said.

A restriction on car buyers is also being deliberated; for instance, those who do not own a parking space or plan to rent one would likely be banned from purchasing vehicles, he added.

Officials who attended the meeting were briefed on the outlines of their respective agencies’ responsibilities concluded during preliminary meetings, and drafted a roadmap for the campaign.

Ministry of Education senior specialist Chiu Jen-chieh (邱仁杰) said two elementary schools would be selected for a trial run of the “air quality flags” next month. The flags come in four colors — green, yellow, red and purple — with green indicating the air quality is “safe,” and red and purple denoting that the air quality is “poor” and “dangerous” respectively, Chiu said.

Students suffering from allergies or respiratory diseases are advised to stay in the classroom and physical education classes would be cancelled or carried out indoors when a red or purple flag is raised by faculty after consulting data by nearby survey stations, he said.

The Bureau of Energy is tasked with developing energy sources and the nation’s “green” industry, thereby boosting the proportion of renewable energy in the nation’s energy portfolio.

It is also to provide guidance to power companies to adopt clean fuels, such as natural gas, as well as collaborate with the private sector in developing and manufacturing electric vehicles and scooters.

The Ministry of the Interior is to continue giving green structure certification to new and existing organizations that promote environmental concepts, and raise public awareness of the correlation between pollution and religious rituals, such as burning ghost money and incense.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare will be in charge of overseeing health risk assessments of air pollutants and improve on assessment methods.

Local governments are to be required to devise plans to tackle air pollution and submit them to the panel, which will monitor local authorities’ progress on pollution mitigation.

Apart from the panel, a 14-to-16 member task force comprising academics, officials and residents from the Kaohsiung-Pingtung air quality zone, as well as the Taichung-Changhua-Nantou and Yunlin-Chiayi-Tainan air quality zones — where the density of petrochemical and coal-fired power plants are the highest — will meet quarterly to brief the administration on the progress of local governments’ efforts to prevent and reduce pollution, as well as any change in estimated emissions from major industrial projects.

Chen said the panel and the task force aim to cut particulate matter 2.5 — fine particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter — levels nationwide to no more than 15 micrograms per cubic centimeter of air, as recommended by the administration.

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