Rallies in Taichung, Kaohsiung call for cleaner air

Protesters call for the government to implement better measures to clear up polluted skies in southern Taiwan


A protester wearing a face mask holds up a sign "Welcome to Kaohsiung" featuring a person with a gas mask. (By Central News Agency)

Taipei (Taiwan News)—Thousands of protesters rallied in Taichung and Kaohsiung on Sunday to protest against air pollution and environmental changes, joined by local officials, lawmakers, and former Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲).

The marches were organized by the civil group Taiwan Action Alliance for Healthy Air (台灣健康空氣行動聯盟), to call for the government to address air pollution issues in Taiwan, especially in heavily polluted central and southern regions of the country.

Showing his support for the appeal by attending the protest march in Taichung City Park, Lee called on the government to make Taiwan a role model in the battle against air pollution and environmental change in Asia.

The Nobel Prize laureate urged the government to update the Air Pollution Control Act  (空氣汙染防制法), and called for enterprises to consider more sustainable development models in the fight against pollution.

Taichung march convener Yeh Kuan-peng (葉光芃) noted many physicians from medical associations nationwide came forward to voice concerns about the health effects of air pollution, particularly for children.

The nation is divided by two skies—one with clean air and one polluted by poor environmental practices, added Yeh.

Protest rally in Taichung (CNA photo)

Although winds carrying smog from China to Taiwan contributes to 30 percent of the nation's air pollution, the remaining 70 percent is from domestic pollutants, mainly from river pollution, factory and vehicle emissions, reported China Times.

The average level of fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM 2.5) in southern Taiwan over the past few years exceeded World Health Organization’s safety standard by three times, said march convener Chen Chiao-hua (陳椒華).

The risk of death caused by air pollution among people living in southern Taiwan increased 12 percent over the years, said Chen, who is also the spokeswoman for Taiwan Alliance for the Protection of Water Resources

She recommended the headquarters of the Executive Yuan and Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) should be relocated from Taipei to Kaohsiung, so authorities can experience first-hand how bad air pollution is in southern Taiwan.

Panoramic view of protesters in rallying against pollution in Kaohsiung
Protest rally in Taichung. (Photo by Kate Nicholson)

Kaohsiung City and Tainan City in southern Taiwan recorded the highest average PM 2.5 concentration in Taiwan last year, according to statistics compiled by the EPA from 76 air quality monitoring stations countrywide.

Zuoying district in Kaohsiung recorded the highest average PM 2.5 concentration at 30.1 micro grams per cubic meter, followed by Chaozhou district in Tainan at 29.

Air quality is at its worse for seven consecutive months in southern Taiwan every year, starting from September to the following March.

A protester at the rally in Taichung City organized by Taiwan Action Alliance for Healthy Air holds up a sign to eliminate reliance on coal-fired power plants. (Photo courtesy of Kate Nicholson)