EPA drones help monitor impact of remote projects

he Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday said it uses unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to assist in monitoring the actual environmental impact of development projects in areas that are difficult to reach.

Bureau of Environmental Inspection Inspector-General Chen Shyan-heng (陳咸亨) said some of the more than 1,000 development projects approved by environmental impact assessments (EIA) occupy large areas or are located in remote mountainous areas, which are more difficult to monitor.

The agency started to use UAV — which are fast, flexible, have a low operational cost, provide high resolution photographs or videos, and can gather information over large areas — to monitor these sites, he said.

Through UAV monitoring operations of the nation’s sixth naphtha cracker complex in Mailiao Township (麥寮), Yunlin County — which occupies almost 2,600 hectares and has been one of the most complicated EIA investigations — the agency was able to understand the location of the project, number of storage tanks and other information, Chen said.

Thanks to the drones, the EPA discovered that there are 3,129 storage tanks in the complex, far more than the just over 1,000 the company reported, he said.

The EPA has already asked Formosa Plastics Corp to provide an EIA report to clarify whether the situation negatively affects the environment or industrial safety, and fined the company NT$300,000 because it used parts of its planned green belt areas for other uses, he said.

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