Fri, Jul 11, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Remote village gets cash boost for its eco-tourism

NEW VENTURE The small Hohsing Village is making big plans to become a hub for ecological projects in Nantou County and ensure villagers' survival on the land

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER IN NANTOU

A remote village in Nantou County, which was almost wiped out by the devastating 921 earthquake in 1999, will receive financial aid from the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) by the end of this year to promote its ecological tourism. This tourism venture is based on concepts aiming to raise environmental concerns, officials said yesterday.

According to EPA officials, NT$300,000 will be used in an ecological park in Hohsing Village (和興村) to erect signs explaining the characteristics of diverse endemic plants.

"It's part of environmental education. We hope to raise the public's awareness of the importance of ecological preservation," Edward Huang (黃光輝), deputy director-general of EPA's department of planning, said at a press conference yesterday.

In 1999, the devastating earthquake destroyed more than 200 houses in the village, leaving only six houses unscathed.

The quake and subsequent aftershocks disturbed the rock and soil in the region. The 1,445-hectare Hohsing area became one of the most landslide-prone areas in Nantou.

The vulnerability to landslides has made it difficult for the local government to boost tourism in the region.

When the government planned to relocate about 1,000 villagers after the earthquake, residents regretted that they had earned their living by over-exploitating mountainous resources -- planting betel palms -- in the last three decades.

They decided to change their ways in order to stay on the land they had lived on for generations.

In 2000, Hohsiung residents began to systematically turn the village into an ecological village by planting endemic trees and using recyclable materials from betel palms.

According to Chang Chih-yuan (張桎源), secretary of Hohsing Agricultural Cooperatives, 300,000 endemic trees were planted in the last three years.

To date, more than 3,000 tourists have visited Hoshing, enjoying special meals of organic food in a park specially designed for promoting environmental protection and ecological preservation.

"Hopefully, water and soil preservation will be improved. Ecological restoration is our main goal in turning Hohsing into an ecological village," Chang said.

Before the earthquake, 1,200 hectares of land in the village were covered by betel palms. Now residents are recycling all parts of betel palms to make food, produce reusable tableware and building shelters in the village.

According to Chang, reusable bowls and cups made from betel palms can resist temperatures of up to 140?C. They are environment-friendly because they decompose in the soil within three months.

Fish ladders were built along creeks running through the park. The shortage of trash cans remind tourists to leave no litter in the park.

The establishment of the park brought locals employment opportunities. Chan Shu-chung (詹淑瓊), an employee in charge of offering environment-protection information to visitors, said she treasures the opportunity to work in her home village.

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