Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) official Tsai Hung-te says the government wants temples to consider their environmental impact.
Tsai is the head of the EPA's air quality department. He was speaking Wednesday after a temple in Yunlin County announced the creation of a league for the defense of incense burning. The temple plans to hold a rally in Taipei on July 23 in support of traditional religious practices. The temple says it will protest the blame environmental groups place on temples for air pollution and for what it says is the suppression of traditional culture.
Tsai said that the government respects traditional culture, and that there is no ban on burning incense or paper spirit money offered to the gods. He said that the government asks temples to think about the environment as well as the health of temple staff and nearby residents.
He said that temples can reduce their impact on the environment and health by reducing how much incense and paper money they burn. He also said that the EPA is developing a burner for spirit money that reduces the amount of pollutants that are released into the air.
Tsai said that much of the incense and spirit money burned in Taiwan is imported. Only 20,000 of the 400,000 tons of spirit money burned annually in Taiwan is produced locally. Tsai said that imports from places like China and Vietnam are often of poor quality and release toxins when burned. He said that one of the EPA's future goals will be to require that imports meet Taiwanese standards.
Tsai said that it will take time to achieve a balance between traditional religion and environmental protection. He said that some temples have already adopted measures cutting down on incense or banning it altogether. But he said these are decisions reached by temples themselves, and aren't the result of EPA requirements.
Source: Radio Taiwan International