Kaohsiung takes action on air pollution

THE BIG SMOKE::The city’s residents have grown tired of waiting for the central government to amend pollution laws, so the city’s environmental bureau is forging ahead

By Fang Chih-hsien and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Thu, Apr 04, 2013 - Page 5

One of the major complaints about living conditions in Greater Kaohsiung is the air pollution. Following renewed efforts by local residents and environmental groups, the city government said it will undertake measures to curb emissions and air pollutants in a bid to pressure the central government to pass environment-friendly amendments as soon as possible.

According to environmental groups, as early as 1999, measures regulating pollutant emission levels were proposed for inclusion in the Air Pollution Control Act (空氣污染防制法). However, the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ fear of the measures’ potential negative impacts on economic growth and industrial development has been blocking the act from being amended in that regard, the groups said.

The Greater Kaohsiung Government’s Environmental Protection Bureau announced earlier this week that in two years, it will complete a project to monitor and record pollutant emission levels at the city’s 420 factories.

Bureau director Chen Chin-de (陳金淂), who assumed the post in February, said that improving the city’s air quality is one of his major policy goals.

“The central government kept on delaying amendments to the Air Pollution Control Act, so we are unable to enforce air emission standards,” Chen said. “Despite this, we local governments should not shirk our responsibilities. We must have the preparatory work done beforehand, ahead of any amendment, so we can exert pressure on the central government.”

“As for the factory operators, they should also exercise self-restraint and come up with proposals on ways of reducing harmful emissions,” he added.

For factories violating air quality standards, the bureau said it would demand that they reduce their emissions to relieve Greater Kaohsiung residents from their nightmare of foul air.

The situation has worsened through the years as the clustering of industrial sectors, such as steel factories, power plants and petrochemical manufacturers, began in Greater Kaohsiung four decades ago.

The situation is not helped by the city’s geographic setting and its climatic conditions, which are not conducive to the natural dispersal of smog and air pollutants, bureau officials said. Often these conditions cause air pollutants to accumulate, resulting in a skyline cloaked in gray smog.

Most of the time, the levels of the city’s suspended particulates and ozone exceed air quality standards.

Wang Min-ling (王敏玲) of the Citizen of the Earth Foundation said her organization last year started a petition drive on the issue that has collected signatures from more than 12,000 Greater Kaohsiung residents. The appeal garnered support from city councilors across party lines, she added.

Amendments are also being proposed in the legislature, which, if passed, would allow the Environmental Protection Administration to enact air pollution emission regulations without requiring ministry approval, she said. The proposed draft bill has passed the first reading and is now under review in the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee, she added.