With the joint effort between central and local governments, air quality in Taiwan improved significantly in 2018. Statistics show a 35.8% decrease in red alert days from 2015 to 2018, meaning that the EPA has accomplished its phased target of halving the number of red alerts ahead of schedule.
According to the air quality monitoring results of 2018 based on the Air Quality Index (AQI), the number of red alerts set off over the years has gradually fallen from 997 in 2015, 898 in 2016, 483 in 2017 and 310 in 2018. Compared to red alerts in 2015 and 2017, the numbers have decreased by 68.8% and 35.8%, respectively.
The EPA points out that the cities/counties with the best reductions of red alerts are Taichung City, Nantou County, Kinmen County, Pingtung County and Yunlin County, with reduction rates ranging from 49% to 75%. Additionally, a total of 23 monitoring stations across Taiwan issued red alerts on 3 March 2018 because of poor diffusion of air pollutants due to the wind direction combined with fireworks launched on Lantern Festival. Taipei City and New Taipei City alone registered 12 red alert readings on that day.
Monitoring data also shows that air quality is often affected by wind factors, such as diminished wind speed for a long period and weakened wind strength. For instance, multiple occurrences of changes in wind direction severely worsened the air pollution in 2018 due to air pollutants that can be carried along air currents from other cities, especially when the wind starts blowing in an easterly direction. The EPA states that Taiwan’s air quality usually worsens during fall and winter months because of prevailing weather conditions. Therefore, to prevent further air quality deterioration, both central and local governments are required to participate in and take contingency measures based on the Regulations Governing Emergency Measures to Prevent Severely Deteriorated Air Quality. When an air pollution episode is predicted, depending on the pollution level, an alert must be released and preventive actions are to be implemented, such as cutting down pollutant emissions from factories, upwind sources and local power plants. If air quality continues to degrade, different levels of emergency response and safety measures are required to be carried out depending on the pollution concentration levels. As the pollution concentrations worsen, the extent of controlled targets and measures also widen, to include both public and private premises.
As for long-term air quality control, the EPA will continue implementing the Executive Yuan’s Air Pollution Control Action Plan and other relevant measures.
Excerpt from Environmental Policy Monthly, 22(1)
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)