Sunday, February 01, 2009

Taliao and Pollution

Taliao, a small town in a "rural" area outside of Kaohsiung, has been in the news recently with a toxic leak that that has affected schools in town.
Last month, the Chaoliao Elementary and Middle Schools were evacuated at least four times as students and teachers went to the hospital after a foul smell became apparent. Classes have since been moved to other schools.

The Environmental Protection Administration produced a report listing seven possible sources of the pollution around the nearby Ta Fa Industrial Park, but was unable to come up with the name of a culprit.

The residents accused the EPA of dragging its feet for a month before tackling the problem.

The protesters demanded the removal of the wastewater plant they feel is responsible for the pollution, the resignation of EPA chief Stephen Shen, and apologies from President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Liu Chao-shiuan. They also want the EPA to launch a new environmental impact report on the area.
The surprising thing is not that there is such news, but that such news isn't constant. The whole town is one gigantic toxic waste cesspool.

The beautiful blog Shan Ding Lu has an excellent photo essay on pollutant sources in and around Taliao. Taliao is out in Kaohsiung county, which has one of the greatest concentrations of factories in the world, and is surrounded in three directions by naptha crackers in Linbian, Nantze, and west of Nantze. There is also the China Steel plant outside Kaohsiung and not far from Taliao, the airport in Hsaiogang, the industrial district in town, a military training academy, a couple of universities with small, on-site incinerators, and the crown jewel of stink, the Kaohsiung city garbage dump, right next to Fooyin University.

The Taipei Times reported back in December on the series of leaks, which some residents had claimed came from a waste treatment plant:
The demonstration in the morning was tense. Because the protesters had gathered without applying for permission, the police demanded they disperse in accordance with the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法).

This drew a heated response from the protesters, who then clashed with police. Some protesters threw rocks at both the plant and the police. One protestor was detained.

“Must someone die before the factories cease operation?” said Taliao Township chief Huang Tian-huang (黃天煌).

The situation calmed when Kaohsiung County Commissioner Yang Chiu-hsing (楊秋興) arrived at the site at around 11am.

“The gas came from a factory,” Yang said, adding that the waste water treatment plant was merely a downstream destination of the foul gas.
Readers might take a moment to reflect on the "violence" that occurred in the Chen Yunlin protests. Violence is traditional at Taiwan protests. Note the Parade and Assembly Law at work as well -- police attempted to disperse the crowd using that law.

There were violent clashes again a few days ago, when the EPA said it had identified the culprits.

The factories responsible for last month’s poisonous gas leaks at the Tafa Industrial Park in Kaohsiung County’s Taliao Township (大寮) have been identified, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday.

“After days of intense investigation, we have narrowed down the list of factories likely responsible for the leaks to a few. Who should be targeted for compensation is now clear and Taliao residents can seek mediation. There is no need for [Taliao residents] to protest,” EPA Minister Steven Shen (沈世宏) said at a press conference in Taipei.

Shen said the Kaohsiung County Government should begin mediation between the Industrial Park and residents as soon as possible.

Shen made the comments in response to violent clashes yesterday involving Taliao residents and factories in the industrial park. A section chief at the park suffered a concussion and glass windows at a wastewater treatment plant were shattered with hammers and baseball bats by angry protesters. The protestors demanded that the plant supply a satisfactory proposal for how to resolve the dispute. They also threatened to stage a “bloodshed protest” on Friday.
I actually lived in Taliao in the late 1990s (my own old photo essay is on my website; Taiwan Panorama has an article on being poor in Taliao). It was the worst place I've ever lived in. Did I mention the flooding that began a few years ago?


STOP Ma said...

You mean there's a worse spot than Keelung? ;>)

Anonymous said...

Taiwan despite its DPP policy to establish a 'Green Island' has one of the world's worst environmental records. Sustainable development on the island is largely a joke, and the story here is just another sad reflection of how society mistreats its natural resource.

TicoExpat said...

These guys haven't heard of Bhopal?! Geesh, hope nothing like that ever happens, but with swift, fair actions like these...