Environmental Conflicts and Risk Governance after 2014 Kaohsiung Gas Explosion

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:39
Location: Hörsaal 50 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Hua-Mei CHIU, National Sun Yat-Sen University, Taiwan
In the midnight of 31 July 2014, a deadly gas pipeline explosion killed 32 people and injured over 300 people in Taiwan’s second largest city, Kaohsiung. Due to the lack of precise information about the pipelines of toxic gases and the operators, the municipal government and fire brigades have failed to prevent the disaster. Kaohsiung people suddenly found that they have been actually living in a mega petro-chemical industrial zone for decades. How to deal with the complex net of underground petrochemical pipelines connecting several industrial zones, gas storages and the harbor becomes a big challenge to Kaohsiung. This paper examines the responses to the risk of petrochemical pipelines from the environmental organizations and the communities, the municipal government and the companies involved after the Kaohsiung Gas Explosion. It finds that, while the leading environmental group and the general public request for environmental justice, information transparency and community right to know, and the establishment of risk control platform with public participation, the local government and the industry are rather reluctant to engage the issues raised by the public. Moreover, although the local government has released a rough map of 89 pipelines and the Petrochemical Pipeline Self-governance Articles one year after the disaster, the government has shown little interests in industrial transition. Both central and local governments and the industry have advocated a proposal of a new mega petrochemical industrial zone off-shore or on the coastal area of Southern Kaohsiung. The attitude of the government disappoints the environmental and community groups who want to get rid of petrochemical dependency and advocate of industrial and energy transition. The tension and conflict between the government, the industry and the environmental groups are in continue. How different players can work together to reach a consensus on disaster prevention and risk management remained a challenge.