2011年4月1日 星期五

【TaiwanToday】Highway project threatens Alangyi Ancient Trail

Highway project threatens Alangyi Ancient Trail

Highway project threatens Alangyi Ancient TrailMany fear upcoming road project on the east coast will tarnish the Alangyi Ancient Trail and its pristine beauty. (Staff photos/Kwangyin Liu)
  • Publication Date:04/01/2011
  • Source: Taiwan Today
  • By  Kwangyin Liu
Hugging the verdant slopes of the Hai-an Mountain Range above the turquoise Pacific Ocean, the Alangyi Ancient Trail on Taiwan’s rocky southeast coast is renowned for its pristine beauty and biodiversity, but all that could soon change.
The 8-kilometer hiking trail is the last stretch of Taiwanese coastline without the ubiquitous concrete wave breakers, dikes and blacktops that are commonplace across the nation. Hundreds of hikers converge on the trail every weekend, undeterred by, and even attracted to, the lack of easy road access.
“The news said they will soon begin construction of a new road here,” said one trekker, his head and mouth covered against the strong sea wind. “So we’re afraid this beautiful shoreline could vanish at anytime.”
Alangyi, established in the 1870s during the Qing dynasty, has gained popularity with nature lovers in the past few years. Long before that, it was used primarily by Pingpu indigenous tribes for travel along the coast between Xuhai Village in Pingtung County and Anshuo Village in Taitung County.
For nearly a decade, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications has been seeking to bridge the gap on the round-island highway network by joining Xuhai and Anshou with new road projects. In November 2010, the Environmental Protection Administration approved the environmental impact assessment for the plan proposed by the MOTC’s Directorate General of Highways, after two previous rejections.
“This road will benefit both tourists and local residents, cutting travel time between Kenting and Taitung by around 40 minutes,” the DGH said, adding that the impact on the fragile coastal biodiversity would be minimized by the recent decision to set the road 200 meters back from the water’s edge and replace some sections of open road with tunnels.
Local residents are largely in favor of the project. “We all support it, because improved traffic will bring tourists and job opportunities; those who oppose it were incited by radical environmental activists,” said Pan Jian-bo, a coast guardsman whose family lives in Xuhai. “To tell the ugly truth: with an empty stomach, who cares whether some animals go extinct?”
A1Hung Hui-hsiang, a Pingtung-based environmental activist, calls for the protection of the ancient trail.
Hung Hui-hsiang, chairman of the Pingtung Environmental Protection Union, is one who cares. He gave up his well-paid high school teaching position in 2008 to participate in numerous protests against exploitive development projects.
“Even if the highway manages to leave the coastline intact, it will still block annual migration paths for wild animals,” Hung said. “Some locals reported seeing the endangered Formosan sika deer near the trail, which is a good sign, for it indicates rehabilitation efforts in the neighboring Kenting National Park have paid off,” he said.
“But I doubt the deer can withstand the upcoming road building that is going to cut through their habitat.”
Pan, a coffee shop owner who wished to be identified only by her last name, is among the few who reject the convenience promised by the project if it must come at the price of the area’s wildlife.
“She has become an enemy to the entire village,” Hung said. “Even her own father accused her of being uncooperative.”
Pan has ideas for package ecotourism tours, bringing small groups of visitors to experience the unique flora and fauna around the ancient trail, but other villagers seem to prefer the faster way: a road capable of transporting thousands of potential tourists every weekend in and out of the tiny village of Xuhai, with its population of around 100.
The Alangyi trail’s limited capacity is a result of both its remoteness and ruggedness. On the 4-hour hike walkers have to wend their way under a scorching sun among rocks and mounds of driftwood, all the while holding onto their hats in the fierce sea wind. At the menacing Guanyin Bi, the “nose of the goddess,” they have to use fixed ropes to scale an almost vertical gravel hill.
The scenery is well worth the sweat, however. At the top of the 120-meter climb, one sees the emerald Pacific Ocean blend seamlessly with the sky, and an unspoiled coast with no manmade constructions.
A2Extra attention and strength are required of hikers climbing up and down the Guanyin Bi hill.
Several rare creatures, including the coconut crab and the endangered green sea turtle, find their only home in Taiwan here. “The animals have managed to cope with no more than 50,000 visitors who walk around their habitat per year, but what will happen to them when 100 times more of tourists come swarming in on double-deckers?” a worried Hung asked.
In the battle between possible economic benefits and conservation of Taiwan’s biodiversity, activists, academics and writers have called for the preservation of the Alangyi Ancient Trail, even if the road project is a must.
“The road can be built only on the premise that developers keep impact on the coastline and its biodiversity to the absolute minimum,” prominent ecology writer Liu Ke-xiang said in a newspaper article.
Others have urged the public to rethink the pervasive obsession with speed and development. Leaning into the powerful wind blowing off the ocean at Alangyi’s midway point, Hung asked why we have invented all sorts of advanced technology only to make our lives more hectic.
“Why shouldn’t development also be about safeguarding what’s precious for generations to come?” (THN)
Write to Kwangyin Liu at kwangyin.liu@mail.gio.gov.tw