Asia Minute: Incense and Air Pollution in Taiwan

Aug 1, 2017

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Thousands of people recently demonstrated in the streets of Taiwan’s largest city. The protest had nothing to do with relations with Beijing, or jobs, or political reform. But it is linked to one of Taiwan’s other continuing challenges. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.


Air pollution is a stubborn problem for Taiwan.

Pollutants drifting over from mainland China add to home grown industrial air pollution, and fumes from cars, trucks and the side effects of the island’s several coal-fired power plants.

And then there’s a source that is culturally sensitive.

The government says the burning of incense at temples adds to poor air quality.

Singapore’s Straits Times talked about that with a senior official in Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration. He says some measures of air pollution near temples are four times the usual level found across the island.

Taiwan is home to some 30,000 temples, making the math challenging to air quality.

Some temples have reduced or stopped the burning of incense.

But there’s also been some pushback.   

Police say more than 10,000 people showed up at a rally Taoists organized two Sundays ago in Taipei—protesting restrictions on the burning of incense.

The central government is keeping everything on a voluntary basis for now.

Agence France Presse ran a somewhat vague statement from the government saying “taking into account both the spirit of tradition as well as contemporary values of environmental protection, we’ve called on religious groups to take appropriate measures to reduce potential pollution.”