Shouting “we want health, we want the Environmental Impact Assessment [EIA],” and “save the nation with environmental protection,” members from several civic groups protested in front of the Taipei International Convention Center yesterday morning, urging the National Conference on Industrial Development to take the environment into consideration.
As the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ first National Conference on Industrial Development began, about 100 members from groups concerned about environmental issues held banners at the meeting’s entrance and stressed that environmental protection should not be separated from economic development.
The groups said the ministry had included discussions on whether the current EIA mechanism is suitable in the meeting’s agenda, but that they feared that without civic groups’ participation a decision to abandon the mechanism could be reached through “black box operations.”
“The [Environmental Protection Administration’s] veto power over the EIA cannot be abolished,” they said, adding that the status of the current EIA mechanism is in doubt because draft acts such as the national land planning act, the greenhouse gas reduction act, the wetland act and the coastline act as well as other related policies have not yet been formalized.
They also said the government should safeguard the environment for the public and use EIAs to drive industrial transformation, rather than abolishing it.
Wu Li-huei (吳麗慧), a member of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union’s Changhua office, said descriptions such as “high quality transformation of industrial structure” are used at such meetings to deceive the public, when in fact the expansion of the petrochemical industry depends on high levels of water consumption and pollutant emissions, which may increase the risk of cancer to the public.
The Taiwan Ecological Stewardship Association said that while the installation of pollutant-reducing devices may increase companies’ costs at the time of purchase, the economic benefits will be clear in the long run.
Additionally, several fishermen from Yunlin County’s Mailiao Township (麥寮) said Formosa Group’s naphtha cracker had impacted the fish-farming industry over a long period, and may have also caused harm to residents’ health, so they were opposed to any further expansion of the plant.
In response to the protest, the ministry said that the fixed quota for civic participation in the conference is limited, and while the groups’ suggestions will be referred to, the meeting is more focused on economic development issues such as industrial transformation and innovation.