Taipei, June 22 (CNA) People who pollute the environment by throwing away sandbags will face fines ranging from NT$1,200 (US$40) to NT$6,000 for violating the Waste Disposal Act, environmental protection authorities said Friday.
Wu Tien-chi, an Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) official in charge of waste management, drew attention to the fines after receiving reports from some cities and counties that sandbags had been dumped on roadsides after Tropical Storm Talim passed Taiwan Wednesday.
"People should store their sandbags for future need properly," Wu said.
Those who are not able to keep sandbags at home are advised to return them to the government units that distributed them as an anti-flood precaution, he said, adding discarded sandbags pollute the environment and may block drainage systems.
Wu noted that the EPA has instructed the relevant authorities in local governments to establish sandbag management and collection mechanisms to prevent dumping.
In the past week, hundreds of thousands of sandbags were given away by local governments as Talim approached and the Central Weather Bureau warned of heavy rainfall around the island.
Eagerly collected by worried citizens ahead of the storm, the bags have since become surplus to requirements and many people have dumped the large objects on roadsides or in places near their homes.
"They were purchased with taxpayers' money. People should refrain from creating such waste," a district chief in Tainan City said.
Tainan City Water Resource Director Lee Meng-yen said every year, the city government allocates funds to buy sandbags for citizens' use. This year so far, the city has given away 170,000 sandbags worth a total value of around NT$1.7 million, he noted.
"What a waste to throw them away after use," he said.
Besides being a wasteful habit, discarding used sandbags can also lead to drainage problems.
Jan Chyan-deng, head of National Cheng Kung University's Department of Hydraulic and Ocean Engineering, said sandbags are easily broken if left outdoors without any protection.
If a sandbag is cracked and it rains, sand will be flushed into the drainage system, where it will combine with rotting organic matter to become a solid mass that can block the system, the scholar warned.
(By Zoe Wei and Elizabeth Hsu)