A nature reserve will be established around the historic Alangyi Trail that stretches from Taitung County to Pingtung County, saving the 12km-long Pacific coastline hiking trail from the threat posed by the planned construction of Provincial Highway No. 26.
A Pingtung County Government review committee yesterday designated 841.3 hectares of public land from Syuhai (旭海) to Cape Guanyin (觀音鼻) in Pingtung a nature reserve, meaning road construction would not be allowed in the area, in line with the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (文化資產保留法).
The trail runs from Taitung County’s Nantian Village (南田) to Syuhai Village (旭海) in Pingtung.
Since last year, thousands of environmental protection groups and activists have been urging the government to abandon the road plan to protect the last 1 percent of natural coastline remaining in Taiwan, which is along the Alangyi trail, saying the area is home to a rich natural ecology with many species of animals and plants, including the endangered green sea turtle.
To date, 944 civic groups and 61,040 people have signed a petition calling for the road construction to be stopped.
Yesterday morning, hundreds of activists sat outside the Pingtung County Government building, holding banners in support of a nature reserve to preserve the trail and its surroundings.
“We’ve come here to tell the review committee that Taiwan is fed up with concrete tetrapods and coastal groins,” said Hung Hui-hsiang (洪輝祥), chairman of the Pingtung Environmental Protection Union.
However, many people also favor the road because of the economic development it could bring to the area.
Some lawmakers, along with hundreds of local residents, held a counter-protest outside the county building. They held up signs reading “illegal review,” saying the residents’ opinions were being neglected and that they supported the construction of the road.
Construction work was held back over the past year by the Pingtung County Government’s designation of a temporary nature reserve.
The area’s natural landscape would be irreversiblely destroyed by road construction, Pingtung County Deputy Commissioner Chung Chia-pin (鍾佳濱) said after the meeting.
“After examining the information gathered from nearly one year of investigation on the area’s natural environment, the committee has agreed to designate the area a natural reserve,” he said.
Chung said any attempt to modify the reserve’s boundaries or terminate the county’s designation of the area as a nature reserve would also have to go through the same review process.