by Leslie Byster and Ted Smith
Photos by: Mr. Kao, Ching-Po in Taiwan and Mr. Pam, China Times
(you can click on most of the photos to see a larger picture ~500K)
In March, 2001, we had the privilege of visiting to Taiwan to learn about the environmental impacts of high-tech development on this small but dynamic high-tech island. We also had the opportunity to share our own experiences about our environmental and occupational health work in the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) over the past 20 years. We learned a lot about both the pollution problems and the promise of environmental solutions that are percolating throughout Taiwan. The Taiwanese Environmental Action Network (TEAN) and a several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and community groups in Taiwan hosted this trip and introduced us to an incredible array of people, places and pollution. They also shared their hopes for the future with us.
Although we have been keenly aware of the impacts of high-tech development globally, we learned much more after reading a recent research paper written by TEAN. This excellent report- entitled “A Study of the Environmental and Social Aspects of Taiwanese and U.S. Companies in the Hsinchu Science-Based Industrial Park” – documents many of the specific environmental problems facing Taiwan (for more information visit the TEAN website>. This special report was sponsored by the Corporate Global Accountability Project, of the Nautilus Institute in Berkeley, CA.
Last winter, TEAN members Wen-Ling Tu and Lily Hsueh (a new SVTC Board Member) approached SVTC about organizing an environmental trip to Taiwan. During the past few months, we assembled our own Toxics Tour Team (SVTC Executive Director Ted Smith, SVTC Communications Director Leslie Byster, and John Rosenblum of Rosenblum Environmental Engineering, who consults on high-tech wastewater management) to work with Lily and Wen-Ling on this trip. We also arranged for well-respected expert Reinhard Hanselka of the Pipe Trades Training Center via satellite TV to address an important symposium.
II. Why Taiwan is so important to the global high-tech industry?
The electronics industry is the largest and fastest growing manufacturing industry in the world. The rapid rate of globalization is made possible by the rapid development and expansion of the internet economy, which in turn is fueled by the unprecedented growth of high-tech electronics manufacturing. In just one generation, the high-tech revolution has spread out from its birthplace in Silicon Valley to Oregon, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico and has now grown to encompass vast sections of the globe. A typical computer now contains components manufactured and assembled all over the world — semiconductor chips made in New Mexico, Scotland, Taiwan, or Malaysia; a disk drive made in Singapore or Thailand; a CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor made in Japan; circuit boards made in China; final assembly can be in Taiwan, Mexico or Costa Rica.
For the past several years, SVTC has been tracking the global expansion of high-tech electronics manufacturing. As the industry began expanding to other parts of the U.S. and throughout the world, we began to build a new network called the International Campaign for Responsible Technology (I-CRT). I-CRT unites diverse organizations to promote broader participation in the design and development of sustainable technologies. In our experience, rapid technological change has too often led to adverse environmental impacts. Taiwan, therefore, is an important case study in this development.
Role of Taiwan in high-tech development (This section is based on the TEAN report)
The semiconductor industry is one of the most strategically important sectors in Taiwan’s Information Technology (IT) industry. The technological advancement in the semiconductor industry plays an important role in the international market. This has been advantageous to Taiwan’s economic growth and has been responsible for placing Taiwan’s IT industry in the global arena of both the IT industry and IT-related sectors.
The following figures confirm the importance and rapid growth of the IT industry in Taiwan:
- 1986 — Revenue of US$20 billion
- 1995 — Revenue of US$141 billion
- 1998 — Revenue of US$198 billion
The rapid growth of the Taiwanese IT industry has also been closely linked to leading US high-tech companies. For instance, Compaq is the Taiwanese IT industry’s number one procurement company and has established the closest business relationships with Taiwanese IT firms. Its business has been rapidly expanding:
- in 1997 Compaq spent more than US$4 billion in procuring Taiwanese IT products;
- in 1998 Compaq spent about US$5.6 billion, which accounted for one-third of IT hardware production value;
- in 1999 Compaq spent more than US$7 billion in procuring Taiwanese IT products.
Other leadership companies from the US have also established substantial investments:
- in 1997 IBM spent US$1.4 billion in procuring Taiwanese IT products;
- in 1999 IBM spent US$3 billion.
In addition to Compaq and IBM, Dell and HP are also important customers of Taiwanese IT products. In particular, HP is one of the international IT firms that is deeply rooted in the Taiwanese market. By 1997, many HP personal computers were totally manufactured and assembled in Taiwan. Moreover, by 1998 this practice increased to 50% of HP personal computers!
In the global economy, Taiwan is presently the world’s fourth largest producer of semiconductor integrated circuit (IC) products. Taiwan IC production occupied 7.4% of global IC market share by 1998. The decisive economic impact of the semiconductor industry on Taiwan’s economic structure can be illustrated by revenue growth rate — 272.46%– as the highest among all Taiwanese industries. One-fourth of the most competitive technological companies were semiconductor industries.
III. Role of Taiwan in high-tech development (This section is based on the TEAN report)
The state established the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park (HSIP) in 1980, administered by the National Science Council, to provide an infrastructure that would facilitate and accelerate the processes of technological diffusion, and localize the vertical division of labor in the semiconductor firms. From 1980 to 1997, the Taiwanese government invested about US$60 billion in the HSIP, building the necessary infrastructure for providing high-tech industries with an incubator environment. The success of the HSIP has been demonstrated in the increasing numbers of high-tech start-ups moving into the HSIP.
Companies in the HSIP are primarily focused on designing, manufacturing, and researching and developing high-tech products. The major industries within the HSIP can be categorized into six basic groups: integrated circuits, computers and peripherals, telecommunications, optical-electronics, precision machinery, and biotechnology. So far, integrated circuits, computers, and peripherals have been the areas showing the greatest performance and they hold a pivotal position in the international market.
The difficulties in implementing Taiwanese environmental laws in the HSIP have been attributed to two major factors. First, due to the rapid growth of high-tech industries – with short product cycles and intensive chemical use – it has been impossible to develop comprehensive toxic inventories, which play a substantial role in controlling and monitoring toxic chemical releases. Second, the local environmental authority has been unable to implement the laws due to lack of labor, technology, and financial support.
The issues concerning the human and environmental health effects of semiconductor manufacturing have rarely been brought to the public’s attention. Similar to the US, the high-tech industry has built a clean and non-polluting image that appears on the surface to be free from environmental and occupational hazards. However, the major fire that took place in 1997 at United Integrated Circuits, a semiconductor company located in the HSIP, revealed for the safety and environmental problems with the Taiwanese semiconductor industry. The estimated losses amounted to more than NT$10 billion and it was suspected that the incident released a huge amount of chemicals and toxic materials into the air that are dangerous for humans.
Highlights of our trip
During our one-week trip, we toured the Hsinchu Science-Based Industrial Park (HSIP) and the Tainan Science-Based Industrial Park (TSIP); we met with members of the Taiwan Semiconductor Industry Association; environmental engineers, administrators and environmental health and safety staff from several high-tech companies. We met with key governmental representatives including the Mayors of both Hsinchu City and Hsinchu County and their environmental staff, the Secretary-General of the Democratic Progressive Party; and high-ranking officials at the Department of Labor and the legislature. We met with leaders and members of community groups and Non-Governmental Organizations who working to protect community, worker and environmental health push for accountability from the high-tech corporations in their backyards. Our hosts arranged almost daily press conferences for us, which were well attended by the print media as well as television and radio.
The highlight of the tour was a well-attended symposium at National Tsing Hua University, which was sponsored by the Hsinchu Science Industrial Park (HSIP), the Hsinchu city and county governments, and the University. More than 200 people from industry, government and environmental organizations attended and were welcomed by the Mayor of Hsinchu City, the Mayor of Hsinchu County, and the Director of HSIP, as well as by Professor Hwang, the chief organizer of the symposium and a mentor for TEAN.
Our delegation made the following presentations:
- Reinhard Hanselka: How to prevent chemical accidents
- Ted Smith: Developing partnerships for sustainable production
- Dr. John Rosenblum: How to clean up manufacturing wastewater and make money at the same time
- Leslie Byster: Community based solutions to protect community and environmental health
There were also presentations by local government officials, academics, and high-tech industry representatives, and there was lively discussion amongst many of the participants. By the conclusion of the symposium, there was broad consensus that the event was a great success and an excellent beginning for a new kind of multi-party dialogue.
B. Our Taiwanese Toxic Tour
On the other hand, we became painfully aware that many of the health protective laws and regulations we have in place in the US (Right-to-Know, permitting regulations- like the Toxic Gas Ordinance, the Hazardous Materials Storage Ordinance, and the requirement of a 1000-foot buffer between industry developments and residential areas do not exist in Taiwan. Other laws that are on the books are not aggressively enforced. This was particularly apparent near the Hsinchu industrial park where people live only a few feet away from the high-tech plants and have been complaining bitterly about the air, water and noise pollution. All of these problems are compounded by the fact that Taiwan is the 2nd most densely populated country in the world!
We experienced some of our most poignant moments while on toxic tours of Hsinchu, Tainan, and Kaoshiung, which took us to “fenceline” communities affected by toxic contamination (including a Presbyterian Bible College and a Franciscan convent; contaminated streams and creeks; waste incinerators; wastewater treatment plants; sludge farms; and the Koaping River, which was the site of recent illegal dumping of toxics. We spoke with many community groups in Hsinchu, Tainan, and Meinung, as well as with former high-tech workers who have developed serious illnesses while working at high-tech plants in Taiwan (RCA, Philips, etc.). We were particularly interested in meeting with the people from Tainan, which is San Jose’s sister city.
1. Waste discharge
a. Presbyterian Bible College and Franciscan Nuns – The Presbyterian Bible College sits adjacent to the Ker-ya River that is used for waste discharge for the HSIP. The nearby Franciscan convent is also located along the river. Several of the nuns have been diagnosed with cancer and others have been very sick.
b. Thai Fisherpeople – During our trip, we saw Thai immigrant workers who were diving in a river that was used for wastewater discharge from the HSIP. There were signs warning people about the contaminated water, but the signs were only in Mandarin, the official language of Taiwan. This makes hazard communication with Taiwan’s large immigrant community very difficult.
c. Arsenic Poisoning – The recent discovery that important oyster beds near the wastewater discharge have been poisoned by arsenic – an essential ingredient in semiconductor manufacturing – has also increased people’s level of concern.
d. Dead fish found in riverbed – Scores of dead fish has been found in the riverbed of the Ker-ya River that runs through Hsinchu. Researchers found a new riverbank built in Ker-ya Creek directing water to HSIP. According to a survey conducted by a university professor, all these dead fish found were a rare species in Taiwan.
2. Toxic Dumping
a. Shengli Incident (see appendix for more information)
One of the most important environmental management issue that has emerged in Taiwan is that most IT firms in the HSIP depend on contracting waste management companies to handle organic chemical toxic waste. However, there is no effective method that can be applied to monitor the process of how this sub-contracted organic chemical toxic waste is being processed and handled by the waste management firms. The Sheng-li incident revealed the loophole of handling organic chemical toxic waste. Sheng-Li Chemical Company, a licensed treatment firm, transported waste from Eternal Chemical Co. legally but then commissioned others to dump it in the Kaoping River. It was uncovered in July 2000 (see attachment and news article from TEAN report below).
Sheng-li was one of the very few private companies licensed by the Taiwanese government to handle organic toxic chemical waste. Sheng-li had contracted with 80% of the IC companies (44 companies) in the HSIP. Almost all IC companies contracted with Sheng-li to deal with solvent waste.
Each IC factory, on average, produces 250 to 300 gallons of solvent waste per day — it is estimated at 1,000 tons per month (Liberty Times, 7/9/2000, China Times, 7/20/2000). Sheng-li’s monopoly and IC firms’ inability to monitor the toxic waste handling process have created an opportunity for Sheng-li to skirt rules to handle toxic waste beyond their technical capacity. Following this discovery, Sheng-Li was no longer allowed to handle the toxic waste from HSIP, which has caused a major problem of lack of capacity to handle these wastes, which continue to pile up.
3. Waste Incinerators and Sludge Farms
While near Meinung, we visited a waste incinerator and a sludge farm. The incinerator was located very close to a stream. The incinerator was working at over-capacity and had much of the spent toxic ash wrapped in plastic and stored on site since there was no place to dispose of the ash. The sludge farm is operating near the incinerator and is located very close to the a stream area and floodplain. Many people in the local community are concerned that toxics in the sludge may leach out and contaminate the stream.
We were very fortunate to meet with workers and former workers in Taiwan’s high-tech industry. Some of the most poignant cases were the workers at the former RCA plant. RCA company established factories in Taiwan in 1970 and later moved much of its production to Singapore. Groundwater and soil contamination were discovered after RCA abandoned its factories. Organizers reported that more than 1000 workers have been diagnosed with cancer, more than 300 have died. Former workers and their families are organizing to gather more information on the extent of contamination at the site and are discussing potential campaigns and actions.
In addition to meeting with RCA workers and their advocates, we also had the opportunity to meet with worker health and safety groups in Hsinchu, Taipei, and Tainan.
A meeting with Taiwanese non-governmental organizations
2. Meetings with policy makers Throughout the weeklong environmental exchange, we met with local and national policy makers. In Hsinchu City and Hsinchu County government offices, we had informative exchanges with the local environmental staff. We were pleased to see that, in general, the local environmental bureaus are interested in improving their environmental monitoring of HSIP and related production activities, but they are constrained by the lack of authority and resources.
In addition, both City and County mayors met with us and renewed their commitments to promoting a cleaner environment and better quality of life for local communities. In fact, the mayor of Hsinchu County took time out of his busy schedule to have tea with us; he presented us a County publication documenting the County’s social and environmental activities.
In Taipei, we met with the Secretary-General of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the current ruling party of Taiwan. We also met with high-ranking officials at the Department of Labor and the legislature. At the DPP office, we offered our support to the current government to uphold their Green Silicon Island platform, a platform that many argue contributed to DPP’s rise to executive power in recently democratized Taiwan. Lastly, We chatted with the Deputy Director of Occupational Health at the Department of Labor on conducting epidemiological studies.
3. Meetings with NGOs and fenceline communities
Some of the areas of greatest concerns are in the fenceline communities near the Hsinchu Science Park. Community members complained about the odors, noise and air pollution coming from the HSIP. They have raised their concerns to the management administrators at the Park, who have been unable to take enforcement action since they have been unable to identify the pollution sources. We were taken on a toxic tour near the area and had an opportunity to meet some of the community members who discovered the pollution that had contaminated the groundwater and soil in the adjacent community.
While in Kaoshiung, we had the opportunity to meet with the Blue Tungkang River Association which is actively organizing community people and protecting rivers in the south, and the Meinung People’s Alliance which is organizing to oppose the building of dams in the area, which would divert precious water resources from agriculture to industrial uses at the park.
D. TSIP (Tainan Science Based Industrial Park)
We traveled to Tainan, sister city to San Jose, CA, to meet with science park administrators and engineers at the wastewater treatment plant. TSIP is a newer park than the Hsinchu Industrial Park and is located outside the residential area of Tainan, so there are not the fenceline issues as raised at HSIP. Residents and officials expressed their hopes that the mistakes made at HSIP would not be replicated at TSIP.
E. Environmental and Health Protective Legislation
There is no Right-to-Know legislation in Taiwan that require companies to submit reports which detail their toxic emissions. Without this kind of quantifiable and qualitative data, it is nearly impossible to identify the companies who may be the source of the odors and toxic releases. Residents explained to us that other environmental and health protective laws are not enforced, or are not as stringent as laws in the US.
Promises for the future
One of the biggest surprises of our visit was learning that the wastewater treatment technology at several of the semiconductor plants we visited is in some ways more advanced than those at companies here in Silicon Valley.
For instance, we were impressed with the waste water recycling we saw at a Macronix fab, which is currently re-using between 50% – 70% of its waste water. The Taiwanese EPA has stated that they expect new fabs to recycle 85% of waste water, due to serious water shortages on the island. We were also impressed by the commitment of the health, safety and environment staff that we met from several of the high-tech plants.
We ended our tour with a “signing ceremony” on March 30 of a document to commemorate our new friendships. It is an agreement between SVTC and environmental NGOs in Taiwan to cooperate in building trust and working together in the future for a sustainable high-tech environment, both in the US and in Taiwan. The document recognizes that SVTC has pioneered in developing several models that the Taiwanese can learn from, including monitoring, transparency, using the internet to communicate, and cooperation with other groups to share information and experiences.
TEAN and NGOs in Taiwan have identified several long-range goals. These goals include adopting and incorporating SVTC’s collaborative model of working with industry, government and other NGOs in a tripartite roundtable to reach common goals. Another long-term goal involves pressuring industry to increase transparency of information about chemical usage in high tech production processes – firms must disseminate up-to-date information in a form that is user friendly, understandable and accessible to the public. Both NGOs in Taiwan and industry understand the need to increase local autonomy and authority in order to more readily solve local environmental problems. Regulatory constraints at this point cannot be removed unless resolved centrally, but regulatory reform has not kept pace with technological changes in industry. Moreover, NGOs and local governments realize that a means to gain local autonomy would be to pass local ordinances to institute permits and fines which will make it in the economic interests of companies to engage in proper environmental management. Few of these incentive mechanisms are currently in place at the local level. Another long-term goal is in the realm of public health. NGOs in Taiwan would like to work with industry and government to increase workers’ knowledge of occupational health hazards associated with the high tech industry.
Long-term goals have been coupled with several short-term projects. As a way to jumpstart information transparency in Hsinchu, several local NGOs have launched their own websites. HSIP Environmental Monitoring Group (a HSIP-government-NGO imitative) has followed suit; they have posted their annual environmental assessment report online. Upon finding out that HSIP firms are interested in participating in SVTC’s Environmental Information Transparency Report Cards project on the web, SVTC has agreed to rate their websites for environmental information this year. There are also talks in Taiwan among NGOs and local government agencies in regards to setting up a Report Card of their own either through government or media. Lastly, a more ambitious project on the horizon involves the possibility of establishing a project at at Hsinchu’s Presbyterian Bible college similar to the one SVTC has with Pioneer high school students testing local streams in San Jose for toxic pollution.. A new science program is underdevelopment at the Bible College for students to test water in Ker-ya River for chemical contamination.
Further information exchanges are also being planned to promote additional networking and travel between Silicon Valley and Taiwan.
Several individuals and organizations made important contributions to this dialogue. We were inspired by the deep level of commitment and organizing undertaken by community activists in Taiwan. Professor Huang, Crystal Chung, Sam Lin, Chin Bo Kao, Yu-Ling Ku, George Cheng, members of the Meinung People’s Association, the TEPU in Meinung, the Blue Tungkang River Association, and many others were inspirations to us. They all deepened our resolve to strengthen the International Campaign for Responsible Technology and our work to ensure that high-tech development doesn’t adversely impact community, worker, environmental or economic health anywhere. We are very grateful to those who helped sponsor this trip. Funding was provided by Peninsula Community Foundation Donor Advised funds, the Gordon-Lovejoy Foundation, and the Common Counsel Foundation.
Photos of some of the many friends we met
- Saturday, March 24 – arrive in Taiwan at 6:30 am
- visit old RCA plant, and discuss pollution with residents in nearby community
- meeting at NGO office with Crystal and others;
- Visit Hsinchu city hall for meeting with Mayor and his staff
- watched RCA clean-up video
- discussion with two engineers/specialists who oversaw the clean-upSunday, March 25
- toxic tour of Hsinchu city, HSIP and the contaminated KER-YA Creek
- Hsinchu Presbyterian Bible college (water discharge in creek bed runs through college area)
- the Franciscans nunnery
- observe young immigrant Thai workers seen swimming and fishing in polluted river (near waste water discharge)Monday, March 26
- Symposium held at National Tsing Hua UniversityTuesday, March 27
- tour of Hsinchu Science Industrial Park (HSIP) Wastewater Treatment plant
- lunch with Deputy Director HSIP and others
- meeting with Winbond semiconductor’s environmental staff; chairman of Taiwanese Semiconductor Industry Association (TSIA) also spoke with us
- evening drive to Tainan
- dinner at cafe with with Professor Shiann-far Kung and NGO people from Kaoshiung and TEPU in TainanWednesday, March 28
- visit Tainan Science-Based Industrial Park (TSIP);
- brief visit to TSIP’s wastewater treatment plant
- visit Meilung and met with Meilung People’s Association and TEPU in Meinung
- visit Koping River, the site of recent illegal toxics dumping by Sheng-li, Inc., and the tour was taken by Blue Tungkang River Association
- visit sludge farm
- evening drive back to HsinchuThursday, March 29
- meeting with county mayor of Hsinchu
- meeting at HSIP with environmental engineers and administrators from high-tech firms
- press conference
- Leslie interviews with China Times
- Ted and John go to Macronix to visit fabs (processing and recycling of water)
- evening: drive to TaipeiFriday, March 30
- meeting with DPP Secretary General for brief chat about national priority on implementing policy for a Green Silicon Island
- meeting with NGOS at cafe
- some take off to RCA rally, other meet with local activists
- meet with the chair of Sustainable Committee in Legislative Yuan
- meet with Intl. Labor Secretary (at the Council of Labor Office)
- Ted’s interview with public TV
- Dinner with George Cheng of Taiwan WatchSaturday, March 31
- sight-see at Yang Ming National Park area
- leave back to USBrief Description of the Sponsoring Groups
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition Mission Statement
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) envisions a sustainable world where a healthy environment is a right, rather than a privilege. To bring about this vision, we work for the empowerment of people locally, nationally and globally. We are a diverse, grassroots organization committed to the practice of social justice and multi-racial democracy.
Who We Are
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) is a diverse grassroots coalition that for almost twenty years has engaged in research, advocacy, and organizing associated with environmental and human health problems caused by the rapid growth of the high-tech electronics industry. Our goal in addressing these problems is to advance environmental sustainability and clean production in the industry and to improve health, promote justice, and ensure democratic decision-making for communities and workers affected by the high-tech revolution in Silicon Valley and other high-tech areas of the US and the world.
SVTC was formed in 1982 in response to the discovery of substantial groundwater contamination throughout Silicon Valley that was caused by toxic chemicals that leaked out of underground storage tanks from high-tech companies (at the time referred to as the “clean industry!) Since then, we have expanded our programs to address a wide variety of sustainability issues associated with the high-tech electronics revolution. Our program efforts spring from a philosophical commitment to and a long track record in support of community involvement to support environmental and economic justice.
No other organization has achieved more than the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition to call attention to and improve the environmental health and safety practices of the global electronics industry. The Coalition has built a united campaign of allies including community residents, consumers, electronics and technology workers, and government policy makers to raise the environmental consciousness and performance of the high tech sector. Our activism has expanded awareness of the toxic legacy of high-tech development and has moved the industry to eliminate some of the most toxic chemicals and to begin to adopt more sustainable practices.
We are located in San Jose, Santa Clara County, California which suffers greater environmental and occupational health problems from high-tech development than any other region in the world. SVTC works to develop replicable models locally and globally. As our network and outreach have grown, our initial efforts have matured to sustain regional, national, and international impact.
SVTC is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. All donations are tax-deductible.
International Campaign for Responsible TechnologyFor the past several years, SVTC has been tracking the global expansion of high-tech electronics manufacturing. As the industry began to expand to other parts of the U.S. and throughout the world, we began to build a new network called the Campaign for Responsible Technology (CRT) CRT unites diverse organizations to promote broader participation in the design and development of sustainable technologies. In our experience, rapid technological change has too often led to adverse social, political and economic impacts.
More recently, CRT has expanded into an international effort – the International the Campaign for Responsible Technology (I-CRT. I-CRT has been working with environmental, labor, community and health NGOs in other high-tech corridors for more than 10 years and has built good relationships with many other groups throughout the U.S. and around the world.
We envision a world where technology better serves social and environmental needs and empowers communities and workers. For this vision to become a reality, we believe that vastly increased citizen participation is required to ensure the responsible development and implementation of new technologies.
Taiwanese Environmental Action Network (TEAN)
TEAN strives to increase Taiwan’s involvement in international efforts on diverse environmental issues that concern all people. We aim to work on collecting first-hand information to assist the Taiwanese society in moving toward sustainable development. Through international collaboration on environmental issues, we wish to cultivate friendship and wisdom and, together with worldwide environmentalists, create a just, peaceful and sustainable world.
An OverviewThe environment has become a global issue that emphasizes international collaboration and consensus building. Unfortunately, under the present situation, Taiwan has no voice internationally. Because of regional conflict, political interference and self-isolation, Taiwan’s participation and involvement in the global efforts for environmental protection have been limited. This lack of active participation in international environmental affairs has hampered Taiwan and will continue to do so as the world progress toward sustainable development in the twenty-first century. Subsequently, due to Taiwan’s limited first-hand understanding of global environmental affairs, the severity of environmental problems is often underestimated and appropriate policy responses are often delayed. Moreover, it has been difficult for environmental issues in Taiwan to gain appropriate attention internationally. It is virtually impossible for Taiwan to contribute globally in environmental affairs since Taiwan is often absent from international forums where environmentalism is discussed.
Taiwan’s presence at environmental round-tables will enhance and amplify environmental discussions worldwide and play a role in environmental awareness in Taiwan. By relating Taiwan’s environmental concerns to global concerns, Taiwan will benefit, as would the rest of the world. Local environmental affairs have become global ones; sustainable development is no longer just a local concern.
In response to Taiwan’s limited presence at environmental forum, a group of overseas Taiwanese students and activists, initiated the formation of Taiwan Environmental Action Network (TEAN). Those involved in TEAN are long-time activists in environmental movements both in Taiwan and worldwide. Several members are also students and scholars of environmental studies and sciences. Taiwan Environmental Action Network is an international grassroots organization that strives to increase Taiwan’s involvement in international efforts on diverse environmental issues that concerns all people. We aim to work on collecting first -hand information to assist the Taiwanese society in moving toward sustainable development. As a member of the global village, TEAN shares a common vision with environmental organizations worldwide. Through international collaboration on environmental issues, we wish to cultivate friendship and wisdom, and together with worldwide environmentalist, create a just, peaceful and sustainable world.Our Goals
- To increase opportunities for Taiwan to attend international environmental activities and broaden the perspective of Taiwanese society toward international environmental affairs.
- To enhance Taiwan’s ability to collect international environmental information and learn experiences from global environmental forums.
- To amplify Taiwan’s presence on international environmental issues and increase collaboration with other countries on environmental affairs.
- To maintain communication and contact with international environmental organizations and facilitate concern of the international organizations on environmental issues in Taiwan.
- To encourage Taiwan environmental organizations to participate in international environmental affairs, so to enhance Taiwan’s environmental experiences and capacity.
- To train for qualified personnel on international environmental issues and diplomacy.
The Sheng-li Toxic Dumping Incident
For Taiwanese society, the Sheng-li Toxic Dumping Incident (Sheng-li Incident) is the single most dramatic waste disaster that has happened on this island in the past decades. The dumped toxic waste polluted two major water systems.
The highly polluted river in southern Taiwan is the reservoir for the second largest city in Taiwan. For the IT companies, the incident was the most dramatic situation they have faced since first operating in the HSIP. They have difficulty finding storage places for their chemical waste. Worse still, the metal containers used for storing chemical waste are in seriously short supply. For the local governments and local communities, the incident creates a new opportunity for negotiations with SIPA and IT companies for better environmental protection systems. However, we do not have solid evidence to demonstrate any improvements after the incident.
What is the incident? Why is it so critical?
The story was uncovered on the July 18. Kaoping River was found to contain illegally dumped toxic waste. More toxic dumps were found in several creeks in northern, central and southern Taiwan (China Times, 7/18/2000). The Sheng-li Chemical Company transported waste from Eternal Chemical Co. legally, but then commissioned others to dump it in Kaoping River. Sheng-li got the license for toxic waste treatment in 1996, and was also approved by ISO 14000. Due to the illegal dumping, EPA decided to cancel Sheng-li’s license. 52,000 tons of toxic solvent and 78,000 tons of non-toxic solvent are produced a year. Sheng-li handled 20% of solvent produced, which included the waste from 84 companies. Therefore, the real issue for the SIPA and IT companies is that Sheng-li was by far the largest one of only five companies licensed by the Taiwanese government to handle organic chemical toxic waste. Sheng-li had contracted with 80% of IC companies (84 companies) in the HSIP. Almost all IT companies contract Sheng-li to deal with solvent waste. Every IT factory, on average, produces 250 to 300 gallons of solvent waste per day. It is estimated 1,000 tons per month (Liberty Times, 7/19/2000, China Times, 7/20/2000).
The Sheng-li incident revealed the loophole of handling organic chemical toxic waste. Sheng-Li’s monopoly and IT firms’ inability to monitor the toxic waste handling process have created an opportunity for Sheng-Li to skirt rules to handle toxic waste beyond their technical capacity.
Photo credit: Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition is thankful to Mr.. Kao, Ching-po and Mr.. K.C. Pan for giving us permission to put their photos on our website.In our first edition of this report, (June 2001), we mistakenly posted the photos without giving the proper credit to the photographers and listing the conditions of his copyright. We humbly apologize for this oversight.
Based on his support for work of SVTC and other non-profits, Mr. Kao is not asking for compensation or commercial profit. We ask others who may wish to use the pictures to contact us and to clearly credit Mr.. Kao, Ching-po as the photographer. Mr. Pam has given permission for the use of his photos, provided proper credit is given to him. All the photos, except photo 1 and photo 7 were taken by Mr. Pam. The remainder were taken by Mr. Kao.