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Environmental monitoring program in Pratas Islands bears fruit

2010/06/18 23:42:52

Taipei, June 18 (CNA) A joint environmental monitoring programrun by Taiwan and other countries on the Pratas Islands has foundthat air pollution is spreading farther south than had previouslybeen believed, according to results of the program unveiled Friday.

Chu Yu-chi, director of the Environmental Protection Agency'sdepartment in charge of environmental monitoring and Information,said Friday in the Pratas Islands that air pollution could spreadwide, especially in March when Taiwan was under the influence ofChina's sandstorms.

Not only was the air quality in Taiwan poor, even in the PratasIslands -- also known as Dongsha Islands -- located 450 kilometerssouth of Taiwan, the monitoring indexes also showed a marked increasein pollution, he said.

"We didn't know that the sandstorm could spread so far south.This was a rare chance for us to get hold of the path of the storm, "Chu said.

"It recorded over 500 micrograms per cubic meter of particulates,compared with only 30 micrograms at any usual time. The figures willbe of great benefit to future scientific research."

The effort is a collaborative project between Taiwan'sEnvironmental Protection Administration, NASA from the United States,and several Southeast Asian countries to monitor the environmentalquality in the Pratas Islands.

EPA Minister Stephen Shu-hung Shen, National Science CouncilChairman Lee Lou-chuang, and NASA official Hal Maring all attendedthe announcement of the results in the Dongsha Islands.

"The program was the first time that the EPA has cooperated withthe NASA," Shen said.

Taiwan also worked with research teams from Vietnam, Thailand andthe Philippines to use high-tech air monitoring equipment to conducta three-month air quality monitoring.

Shen said that a Navy vessel transported related equipment inFebruary. U.S. equipment will be removed by the end of the month andthe monitoring vehicle will also be transported back to Taiwan then.

He also mentioned that to monitor the long-term changes ofenvironmental quality in Dongsha Islands, the EPA has worked withKaohsiung's Marine Bureau to set up a working station on the island,which is solar-powered and the first green monitoring station inTaiwan.

(By Lee Hsien-fong and Lilian Wu)