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EPA cuts reward for reporting excessively polluting vehicles

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Informers who report sightings of motor vehicles that produce an excessive amount of exhaust emissions, known as “squid vehicles” in Chinese, have seen their reward money cut substantially, local news sources said.

With the sluggish economy, some locals have tried to take advantage of the “squid vehicles” reporting system launched by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) in 2009. Some “informer experts” — those who make more than one report per day — boasted an annual income of NT$2 million by reporting squid vehicle sightings. However, according to the EPA's latest statistics, these informers' earnings have fallen sharply. In 2012, the champion informer made as much as NT$120,000 per month. But he now makes only NT$5,700 per month, or less than 5 percent of what he used to make.

The EPA made some adjustments to its reporting guidelines in November last year in the wake of excessive reporting that placed a serious financial burden on local counties and municipalities. The adjusted guidelines mandate a follow-up examination for each motor vehicle reported, which prevents “repetitive reporting” of the same vehicle.

In the first 10 months of 2013, the government received about 24,000 reports per month, 20,000 of these were made by expert informers, according to the EPA. After the rule adjustment, however, the number of monthly reports received dropped to roughly 10,000, 8,200 of which were made by expert informers.

This has greatly affected informers' earnings. In the case of last year's champion informer, he made an average 403.4 reports per month and banked about NT$120,000 per month between January and October last year. But after the rule adjustment, he made an average of 19.2 reports per month and banked just NT$5,760 per month from November to March.

In an effort to curb air pollution, the EPA has been raising air quality standards every year. The reporting system awards NT$300 for each squid vehicle sighting. The government doled out about NT$52 million in 2012, reaching a record high since the system's introduction. However, the total compensation dropped to NT$26.51 million in 2013, and the amount is expected to decline again in 2014.

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