Tough calls unavoidable, but 'greenwashing' unacceptable
The China Post news staffIt would be ideal to be able to maintain a balance between economic development and environmental protection. Very often, however, we find ourselves in a dilemma that forces us to make a choice between the two, without an option to maintain a balance between them.
December 28, 2012, 12:09 am TWN
We have seen this again and again in Taiwan. President Ma Ying-jeou earlier this year ended months of bickering between environmentalist activists and a consortium seeking to build a petrochemical plant on a plot of wetland on the island's West Coast.
The activists were triumphant in this round, as the head of state halted the project, leading to the consortium looking for an alternative site outside Taiwan and economic officials lamenting the loss of potential economic growth and job opportunities.
The petrochemical industry has been one of the major targets of criticism by environmentalists. The local petrochemical giant, Formosa Plastics Group, perhaps deserves much of the criticism, judging from the frequency with which major fires have hit some of its production bases, particularly its naphtha cracker plant in Yunlin.
The thick smoke billowing from Formosa Plastics' burning plants may have justified all the environmentalists' concerns. But economic development's impact on the environment may not always be as obvious as the smoke from petrochemical plants.
A beach resort could do as much damage to the environment as a petrochemical plant. Environmentalists have been campaigning against a beach resort project in the eastern county of Taitung, citing concerns over damage to the environment in the area.
The campaigners have been supported by members of the local community. They also argue that the Miramar Development Project will deny local residents access to Sanyuan, the most beautiful beach in Eastern Taiwan.
But some other local residents are on the side of the county government, saying Taitung needs the project to create job opportunities. This seems like another typical dilemma between environmental protection and economic development. But there is more.
The campaigners have argued strongly that the environmental assessment for the resort project was faulty. Actually the Supreme Administrative Court agreed, ruling earlier this year that construction for the project had to stop because it had failed to complete the required environmental impact assessment.