Sun, May 23, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Damage from SUVs spurs plan to block road to lake

TUNNEL BATTLE Officials had tried blocking the road to Chitsai Lake before, but ditches were filled in and warning signs were vandalized

STAFF WRITER

Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and jeeps entering mountain areas pose a sufficient threat to the environment that authorities have decided to restrict their access to certain mountain areas.

According to reports in local newspapers, SUVs and jeeps in mountain areas in Nantou County have destroyed scenic spots.

The number of cars in these areas reportedly vary between 20 and 100 vehicles at a time. According to the reports, Chitsai Lake (七彩湖) in Nantou County, famous for its scenery, and Tanta Forest Road leading up to the lake have been repeatedly devastated. Drivers have also destroyed the Forestry Bureau's fences and damaged warning signs with gunfire.

The scenery is beautiful along Tanta Forest Road, originally built as an access road for forest workers following the upper reaches of Chuoshui River into Tanta Valley.

The road was extended to Chitsai Lake, 2,952m above sea level, by Taiwan Power in 1989 for the company's use when building a cross-island high-voltage powerline, thus also providing road access to the lake for the general public. The report said many trekkers complain that SUVs and jeeps have damaged the scenery and created so much noise that the flora is dying and animals are migrating to other areas, destroying the ecosystem.

At one time, the Nantou Forest District Office erected fencing to block the tunnel entrance, only to see it burned down by drivers. Officials then dug ditches both at the entrance and the exit of a tunnel along the road, but these ditches were filled in, and cars reportedly were lifted across the ditches by squad organizers.

Residents from the local Bakurasu aboriginal tribe reportedly said that the many jeeps driving in the river muddy the waters and tear off water plants from the rocks on the river bed where fish lay their eggs, thereby reducing the fish population not only in the Chuoshui River, but also in the Tanta River and the Kashe River.

The Nantou Forest District Office has decided to seal the tunnel with a concrete wall, and to deepen and widen the ditches as a further obstacle. Starting in July, all vehicle access to the lake will be cut off.

Lee Ju-shun (李如順), director of Tanta work station, was quoted as saying that sealing the tunnel is the only option remaining, but that a footpath will be built over the tunnel to allow people who want to enter the area legally to do so. They will have to walk about 12km to reach the lake.

The report also quoted Lee as saying that according to the Wildlife Conservation Law, environmental damage may result in fines of up to NT$50,000.

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