Sat, Nov 29, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Conservationists protest off-road damage by RVs

RUNNING ROUGHSHOD Members of the Society of Wilderness complain RV drivers are causing ecological harm to rivers, streams and remote mountain areas

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Conservationists yesterday said drivers of four-wheel-drive recreational vehicles (RV) who carve out tracks in remote mountainous areas are arrogant "environment damagers," not "road warriors."

At a public hearing yesterday at the Legislative Yuan members of the Society of Wilderness showed dozens of slides of groups of RVs being driven over ecologically sensitive riverside areas.

The society listed several accidents involving RV's being driven up streams and river beds to highlight the hidden social cost caused by such inappropriate activities.

"We are not criticizing RV themselves. We are more concerned about how and why people use them," said Chang Hung-lin (張宏林), the society's secretary-general.

Defending their machines, RV drivers said the vehicles can be used to rescue people stuck in rivers or remote mountainous areas.

According to Chen Chin-chu (陳清柱), chairman of the 4x4 Association of Taiwan, there are about 200,000 RV owners nationwide.

Conservation concepts promoted by the association, however, can only influence its 6,000 members.

Chen said that special guidelines for driving in wilderness areas in order to avoid causing ecological damage are spread thorough his association.

"RVs should not be banned. What we need is well-designed regulations," Chen said.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Chien Chao-tung (簡肇棟) and Cheng Kuo-chung

(鄭國忠) urged the government to strengthen laws to punish people who deliberately intrude into protected areas.

The lawmakers said the current punishments are too lenient because they are based on laws pertaining to tourism, water management, national-park management, forest management and historical monument preservation.

Council of Agriculture officials said that in the future a special license would be required for drivers to enter ecological sensitive areas.

Wei Li-chih (魏立志), the deputy director-general of the Forestry Bureau, said that most ecologically sensitive areas are along rivers.

"To prevent rivers from being accessed inappropriately, we work with the Water Resources Agency to erect roadblocks and warning signs and inspect protected areas along rivers" Wei said.

Investigations by the bureau indicate that ecological systems along 19 rivers in mountainous areas have been damaged by people driving recreational vehicles near the rivers or camping and cooking near them.

About 150 forest police officers will join the bureau's inspection task force next year.

Professors of tourism and national development said that providing RV drivers with special zones where they can drive freely would be one way to prevent more ecological damage.

Lu Shui-fei (盧淑妃), section chief of National Park Department, said the speed at which RVs were driven made it difficult to catch law-breakers.

"In terms of resources management, ecological reserves in national parks should remain protected from people," Lu said.

Lu said public education on ecological conservation should be a top priority.

"People should try to get closer to nature in a very serious and humble manner," Lu said.

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