Lee was speaking at his first news conference as minister after taking office with the rest of the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen last Friday.
The days of unlimited economic development were over, and environmental protection policies needed to be based on public health, with prevention as a key element, Lee said.
“God gave Taiwan many pieces of art,” he said, referring to the Taroko Gorge in Hualien County, one of the island’s main tourist draws.
However, past governments put the economy first, so they never took any action to bar development of national parks, Lee said, allowing work at Taroko to continue until 2017.
The minister hoped that next year, the EPA could open a dialogue with the public so that in the future, such development could be banned completely, according to Lee. The EPA was not planning to target any specific business, but pollution of rivers and mountains should be prevented in order to protect the environment. Asia Cement, a company in the Far Eastern Group, received a 20-year concession in 1997 to exploit a quarry in the area.
Lee emphasized the importance of environmental impact assessment reports and of the protection of natural resources. He also praised the efforts of environmental activists and volunteers, and said there should be closer cooperation between the groups and the police in order to investigate illegal acts involving pollution.