Environmental groups yesterday urged the government to demolish factories illegally built on farmland by the end of this week as promised, saying it should not delay the plan for fear of losing votes in the year-end local elections.
To protect farmland from further fragmentation, the Council of Agriculture (COA) in October last year formed a cross-agency committee along with the Ministry of the Interior and other agencies, and announced a plan to demolish 17 illegal factories that were built after May 20, 2016.
Factory owners are required to demolish their structures within a given time period, or local governments would cut their water and power supplies, fine them and finally demolish the structures themselves, according to the plan.
The committee initially said that the factories could be demolished by the end of last year, but later put off the timetable to the end of this month.
As of yesterday, six of the factories — three in Changhua County, two in Kaohsiung and one in Yunlin County — were not yet demolished, even though their owners have been fined and their demolitions are overdue.
Environmental groups lauded the government’s willingness to face the problem, but questioned if local authorities would implement the law, due to concerns about local elections on Nov. 24.
“Since 2000, the number of illegal factories on farmland has been growing steadily by about 5,000 or 6,000 per year,” Taiwan Environmental Information Association secretary-general Chen Juei-pin (陳瑞賓) said, adding that more than 130,000 illegal factories are occupying farmland.
Foreign companies might reject Taiwanese products if they find that the products are manufactured in illegal structures, given that many global firms have begun to highlight corporate social responsibility in their supply chains, he said.
An estimated 2,213 electroplating factories are built on agricultural land and their effluents are likely to pollute crops, Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan researcher Wu Chi-jung (吳其融) said, calling on the government to unveil the next demolition list.
The Taichung City Government has appointed three or four officials to handle the matter and has demolished more than 400 illegal factories since 2015, Homemakers United Foundation researcher Tang Lin-hsiang (湯琳翔) said, urging other local governments to show similar resolve.
Local governments have become more active in demolishing illegal factories on farmland since the removal plan was announced, COA Department of Planning Director-General Tsai Sheng-fu (蔡昇甫) said separately yesterday, adding that the cross-agency committee can only urge the local governments, but cannot interfere in their affairs.
The next removal list would be announced after the 17 factories are demolished, Tsai added, without providing a timetable.
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