Wed, Jan 05, 2005 - Page 2 News List

`Sacred mountain' to get ecological breather

ENVIRONMENT For the next seven weeks, human activities on the nation's highest mountain will be discouraged in a bid to give its ecosystems time to recuperate


A seven-week program to ease the ecological burden on Taiwan's highest mountain, Yushan, will be launched on Friday by the Yushan National Park Headquarters, the Taipei Times learned yesterday.

According to the park administration, the program has been designed to give ecosystems on the mountain time to recover and build up strength to weather the snowy season.

The administration also aims to shape Yushan into a "sacred mountain," jointly protected by all Taiwanese people.

A three-day cleanup drive conducted by environmental groups and mountain-climbers at the park will start on Friday.

On Sunday, a ritual by the Tsou, an Aboriginal tribe, to express thanks to heaven will be held at the Tataka (塔塔加) visitors' center. The ritual will mark the start of a quiet period of rehabilitation for the mountain.

An opening ceremony is scheduled to be held seven weeks later by the Bunun tribe on Feb. 26, when snow begins to melt.

"During this period, we don't encourage human activities at all. This is not only for ecological preservation, but also for people's safety in the snowy season," Lin Wen-hon (林文和), an official in charge of the park's education section, told the Taipei Times.

Lin said that tourists' visits to the region undoubtedly has an effect on its ecological balance.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications' (MOTC) goal of doubling the number of tourists to Taiwan by 2008 has challenged the ecological capacity of most of the nation's national parks. The MOTC hopes to attract more than 5 million foreign tourists to Taiwan annually.

People who insist on going to the top of the mountain will be required to take along adequate climbing equipment, Lin said.

Pamphlets about the prevention of forest fires will be distributed to tourists entering the mountain in dry winter seasons.

Also known as Jade Mountain, Yushan, which soars 3,952m above sea level, is regarded as a sacred mountain by the Aboriginal people of both the Tsou (鄒族) and Bunun tribe (布農族), who live there.

Yushan is also popular among foreign tourists. Some visitors from Japan and Korea come to Taiwan to make pilgrimages to the mountain.

Statistics show that more than 300,000 people annually file applications for entry to Yushan, which has been listed as one of the nation's ecological reserves. However, only 95 tourists are allowed to enter the mountain sanctuary on any weekday, and 140 tourists on any holiday.

"About 30,000 people go to the mountain annually. But we've been reminded by ecological researchers at National Taiwan University that the mountain could possibly only accommodate half that number," Lin said.

Yushan is just one of the famous mountains in the park, which covers about 100,000 hectares. The park's abundant biodiversity contains vegetation from various types of ecological systems, ranging from tropical to mountain tundra conditions.

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