Taiwan's legislature approved amendments to the Water Pollution Control Act Thursday under which business owners convicted of causing death by illegally releasing toxic water or waste water can be given life sentences plus a fine of NT$30 million (US$1 million).
The amendments include provisions to protect whistleblowers, stop businesses from transferring properties and tracing culprit-owned properties to a third party to ensure that convicted polluters do not escape justice.
The toughened law comes after a public outcry over the small fine–just NT$600,000 (US$19,114)–slapped on Advanced Semiconductor Engineering in 2013 when the massive company was found to be dumping untreated waste water into a river in Kaohsiung.
Prior to the amendments, polluters were only liable for a maximum sentence of three years plus a fine of between NT$20,000 (US$637) and NT$1 million (US$31,900).
The revisions up maximum punishments for waste water discharge that causes illness or disease to seven years in prison plus a fine of NT$20 million (US$638,000).
If the pollution causes "severe injuries," the convicted party now faces three to ten years behind bars plus a fine of NT$25 million (US$796,400).
While polluters whose actions cause death could face seven years to life and a NT$30 million fine, agents or employees found responsible for assisting in the dumping of those pollutants will face fines 10 times that for their bosses–at NT$300 million (US$9.6 million).
Legislators made it a point that perpetrators must not profit from polluting the environment and harming people, adding a provision to the act to pay victims with illicit gains or otherwise have those profits confiscated.
The amendment also authorizes authorities to track down convicts' properties even if registered under a third party.
The Environmental Protection Administration under the Executive Yuan is charged with assessing and calculating the payout for each victim.
Whistleblowers in such cases are protected under the new amendments so that employers cannot lay them off, demote them or cut their pay.
To encourage employees to expose illegal activity by their employers, responsible government agencies will now also be required to set aside a budget for cash rewards given to whistleblowers.
The last major addition to the amended law is that confiscated profits and part of the fines levied on violators must go to a water pollution control fund, which allows the general public to join the campaign to monitor possible violations.
Any moves to modify the Los Angeles River, to return parts of it to a more natural setting or to capture water, need to be implemented with care.
Scientists say the key job of the concrete channel, which has featured in countless films and pop videos, is to protect the city from damaging floods.
And that role is likely to become more challenging if climate change brings heavier rains, they argue.
Alternatives to the river's current brutalism will not be easy to find.
"This is not a simple problem; it's not a matter, for example, of taking out half the concrete," said Bill Patzert from Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
"One of the things the river attempts to do is to move water rapidly - the particular design, the angle, the slickness of concrete. It does that brilliantly.
"We've done something right through the middle of one of the most densely populated places in the world, and redesigning it is going to be very difficult."
Dr Paterzt and colleagues submitted an abstract on the topic to this year's American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting.
They are conducting research that seeks a vision for a "greener" LA River.
The city has boxed itself into a very complex position.
On the one hand, its four-million-strong population requires a huge volume of water, 70% of which is imported from sources that include Northern California and the Colorado River.
And yet when rare, heavy rains fall on arid LA, most of that water is sent straight into the Pacific Ocean via the city's 2,500km of storm sewers and the famous 80km-long concrete conduit.
The river's flood-protection function was put into effect after catastrophic downpours in 1938, which resulted in more than a hundred fatalities and the destruction of over 5,600 buildings.
Since that time, the population of the megacity has boomed and there is now very little space to make modifications to the drainage system as it exists.
The week of 24 to 27 November 2014 saw a unique gathering in New Delhi. Possibly for the first time in India, social activists, environmentalists, academics, researchers, project-affected people and grassroots workers all came together to celebrate India’s rivers, and the role they play in our society, economy and ecology. The gathering was called India Rivers Week (IRW), and was subtitled Rivers in Crisis.
While the reason to convene the Rivers Week may have been the crisis that faces our rivers, the gathering itself was a celebration of rivers, their contribution, and the many struggles and efforts to protect and conserve our rivers. IRW was organised by the South Asia Network on Dams Rivers and People (SANDRP), INTACH, Toxics Link, WWF and Peace Institute.
The Conference was inaugurated by a keynote delivered by well-known water expert and former secretary of the Central Water Resources Ministry, Shri Ramaswamy Iyer, while Shri Jairam Ramesh, former Minister for Environment and Forest was the chief guest. Minister for Water Resources, Sushri Uma Bharati delivered the valedictory address.
However, some of the most important discussions of the Conference took place between these two high profile events.
While it was not an academic conference, the IRW spent two days on extended deliberations on four key issues – What is a River (defining a river)? What are the essentials of a healthy river? What are the main threats to a river? Last but not the least, what would be a road map to river restoration?
While defining a river might sound trivial, in practice, it has serious legal and regulatory implications. Most of the time, a river is understood very narrowly – only as the water that flows through it. This leads to legally permitted interference in rivers like floodplain encroachment, embankments, the regulation of flows through dams etc.
The IRW deliberations came out with a holistic description of a river indicating that a river is much more than just water, that even the flow needs to be understood down to its constituents such as water, silt and sediment, nutrients; that the floodplains and many channels entering the river are part and parcel of it; that the aquatic and terrestrial bio-diversity is an integral part of the river; and that a river performs many functions beyond the economic and commercial, including social, cultural, ecosystems and life support. The IRW has recommended that laws to protect rivers be designed keeping this holistic understanding in mind.
hey say 350,000 litres of furnace oil spilled in the river will cause serious ecological disaster in the biggest mangrove forest in the world.
Forest officials say oil from the tanker which sank early on Tuesday after being hit by another vessel spread around 20 kilometres of Shela River until the afternoon.
The situation was getting worse as the local government offices including the forest department and Mongla Port Authority had no tools to control or clean up the oil spill.
Sundarbans east region Divisional Forest Department official Amir Hussain Chowdhury told bdnews24.com: "The Mrigmari-Nandabala-Andharmanik dolphin sanctuary is facing serious threat due to the oil spill. The sanctuary may have to be moved."
The Sundarbans is the biggest roaming ground for this kind of dolphins, known as Irabati Dolphins or locally as Sushuk. The area adjacent to the Shela River has been declared sanctuary for the dolphins by the government.
Biodiversity and ecology researcher Pavel Partha told bdnews24.com: "The oil will reduce the amount of oxygen in the water. This will create a crisis for all the aquatic animals including the dolphins."
He was concerned that the plants and aquatic resources of the mangrove forest would be fatally harmed.
His concerns were also echoed by Khulna University's environmental science department Prof Dilip Kumar Dutta.
"This huge amount of oil on the water would heavily affect the coastal biodiversity for a long time," he said.
He said there was a slim chance that high and low tide would clean up the oil from that part of the river fast because water flow in the downstream was not strong.
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