Air pollution is an issue that could be resolved with a long-term plan and not just by canceling a one-day event, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said yesterday, after environmental groups called for New Year’s Eve fireworks displays to be canceled to reduce air pollution.
This year’s celebrations coincided with the worst air pollution in the nation in three years, with many areas in western Taiwan registering “red” levels, meaning “unhealthy,” due to high concentration of airborne particles.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare urged people to take protective measures against air pollution when going outside.
Photo: Peter Lo, Taipei Times
The Environmental Protection Administration urged factories to halt their operations on the evening of New Year’s Eve and amusement parks to reduce firework displays, while advising people not to stay outdoors for long periods or light barbecues.
Taiwan Healthy Air Action Alliance director Yeh Kuang-peng (葉光芃) asked why the government did not cancel fireworks displays when air pollution reached serious levels.
Vehicles heading to New Year’s Eve celebrations also increased carbon emissions, another environmental group said.
The fireworks display at Taipei 101 lasted six minutes this year, the longest ever.
Speaking at a walking event held at Taipei Flora Expo Park (台北花博公園) yesterday morning, Ko said: “Air pollution is a daily problem, because people breathe every second, so it should be dealt with through an overall plan.”
“There are 365 days in a year, but the firework display was only about 300 seconds, so we need a long-term plan to solve the problem,” he said.
About 2.59 million people used the Taipei MRT System between 6am on New Year’s Eve and 6am yesterday, and about 371,000 people used the four stations nearest to Taipei City Hall station, where the New Year’s Eve countdown party was held, Taipei Rapid Transit Corp said.
While the number of passengers at the four stations rose by 31,000 from last year, the total number of passengers on all MRT lines decreased by about 46,000, it said.
Ko did not finish the walking event, saying he was tired from attending the countdown party and the flag-raising ceremony early in the morning.
Ko made a 34-minute Facebook live broadcast that began at 10:35pm on New Year’s Eve, saying his New Year’s wish was “to sleep 6.5 hours every day” and “to live every day earnestly and happily,” adding that he would pretend to be happy if that is not possible.
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