Protest marches held in Taichung, Kaohsiung to call for clean air

Taipei--With demands for cleaner air, environmental protection activists held two protest marches in Taichung and Kaohsiung simultaneously Sunday, drawing local officials, ruling and opposition lawmakers, and former Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh (???).

Lee joined the "anti-air pollution, global warming" march in the central municipality of Taichung to show his support for the appeal. He expressed hope that Taiwan will become an Asian model in the battle against global warming and air pollution.

The Nobel Prize laureate suggested that the central government take the lead in updating the Air Pollution Control Act, and that "enterprises and society should also join the fight," in an effort to make Taiwan a more beautiful place.

The marches were organized by the Taiwan Action Alliance for Healthy Air (??????????), a civil group, to call for the government to attach greater importance to the problem of air pollution in Taiwan, particularly in the central and southern areas of the island.

Taichung march convener Yeh Kuan-peng (???) said that many physicians from medical associations around Taiwan came forward to voice their protest out of concern over people's health, particularly children.

"We declare war against air pollution," Yeh said.

Three appeals were presented during the marches, including that the central government should take the initiative in the fight against air pollution and global warming. A Cabinet-level action team should be organized for this battle.

Second, the Cabinet should set up an inter-ministerial committee tasked with setting deadlines for plans aimed at improving the air quality in central and southern Taiwan, where people are suffering from particularly severe air pollution.

Third, the Air Pollution Control Act should be revamped. Outdated regulations should be removed, while new laws should be written to levy tax on carbon emissions, expand control over toxic air pollutants and increase the punishments for offenses against the act.

Some 1,000 people from cities and counties in southern Taiwan participated in the march in Kaohsiung that same day, making the same call for cleaner air.

March convener Chen Chiao-hua (???) said the average level of fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) in southern Taiwan over the past few years has been at least three times higher than the safety standard set by the World Health Organization.

The PM2.5-incurred death risk among people living in southern Taiwan has grown 12 percent over the years, Chen said.

She suggested the headquarters of the Executive Yuan and the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) should be relocated from Taipei to Kaohsiung so that these authorities will learn at first hand how bad the air pollution is in southern Taiwan.

According to EPA statistics, the Zuoying and Qianjin districts of Kaohsiung and Chaozhou Township in Pingtung County recorded the three highest average PM2.5 concentrations in Taiwan last year.

With data from 76 air quality monitoring stations nationwide, the administration said it found Zouying had the highest average PM2.5 concentration at 30.1 micro grams per cubic meter, followed by Chaozhou at 29, and Qianjin at 28.7.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel