On the 21st founding anniversary of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Friday, EPA deputy minister Chang Tzi-chin called for the upgrading of the agency to a Cabinet-level organization -- the Ministry of Environmental Resources.
One of President Ma Ying-jeou's campaign promises was to turn the EPA into a ministry of environmental resources that would integrate affairs relating to the environment, agriculture, forestry, ocean resources, geology, meteorology, national park management and soil and water conservation into a single ministry.
However, such a transformation requires legislative approval. According to an EPA official, a draft amendment to the Organic Law of the Executive Yuan might be sent to the Legislative Yuan for review next year.
If the EPA's administrative level is raised, inter-agency coordination will be streamlined and institutionalized, which in turn will enhance efficiency, said Chang in a telephone interview, adding that many environmental problems can be minimized in the planning stage.
"But such a big machine also raises concern over its actual operation," Chang said, adding that the specific authority of the new ministry would have to be well defined by legislation.
The EPA is itself an upgrade from the previous Environmental Protection Bureau under the Department of Health that took place in 1987, when martial law had just been lifted.
Now that the EPA has made progress in raising people's awareness of ecology and environmental protection, the first EPA Minister Eugene Chien said the agency will have a broader vision in formulating policies once its administrative level is raised.
"Currently, the EPA's work is still `downstream, ' such as pollution inspections, " said Chien, who serve in the EPA from 1987 to 1991. "We expect to be able to solve problems at their points of origin when the administrative level is raised, "he went on.
Looking back on the EPA's development, the agency has made progress, although the road has been bumpy, said Chien.
Since the 1980s, when Taiwan was performing its "economic miracle, " the environment has been seriously damaged -- the cost of rapid economic development -- and people began to form organizations to combat the environmental pollution that is often a side effect of high-tech factories, said Chien, citing the notable cases of movements against the DuPont company and against the Formosa Plastic Group's naphtha cracking plants.
The U.S.-based DuPont had planned to set up a chemical factory in Changhua County, central Taiwan, in 1985. The plan was strongly opposed by local people, who were concerned about the environmental impact of the pollutants emitted by the factory and the company eventually abandoned the project in 1987.