The China Post staff
The Taoyuan District Court ruled yesterday that the Pingchen township government should abide by an Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) ruling to pay NT$3.64 million in compensation to an ordinary resident over landfill pollution. The township government in the northern county of Taoyuan filed a lawsuit with the district court in early 2000 demanding that the court invalidate the EPA ruling. The move marked the first time in Taiwan that a government agency has sued a private citizen over an environmental dispute. The dispute dated back to 1983 when the township government set up a garbage dump on the town’s Chunghsing Road. Worse still, it built an incinerator at the same site in 1989, aggravating environmental pollution in the nearby region. Chung Yen-ming, a resident in the vicinity of the garbage dump and the incinerator, filed a petition with the EPA in 1999 demanding compensation from the township government. Chung said in the petition that all five members of his family had endured foul smells, dirt, smoke and dust from the landfill and the incinerator for more than a decade and had respiratory diseases. Chung further said in the petition that he himself had developed depression due to stress from his dirty living environment. The EPA then ruled that the township government should pay NT$3.64 million in damages to the Chung family. However, the township government disagreed with the EPA ruling on the ground that the establishment of the landfill and incinerator didn’t cause environmental pollution. Even if it had violated a law, the township government said, Chung should have made a compensation claim within two years. Moreover, it added, Chung already received NT$120,000 in compensation from the township government in 1997. The township government thus filed a suit in the district court in 2000 asking the court to overrule the EPA ruling based on Chung’s 1999 petition. Upon learning of the district court’s decision to uphold the EPA ruling, Chung said, “Justice is served.” Chung, who was once detained for seven days for mounting a violent protest against the establishment of an incinerator in his neighborhood in 1989, said financial compensation could not really offset his losses. “What I wanted was justice,” he stressed.