Civic groups yesterday urged the public to help preserve the nation’s remaining natural coastline by opposing plans to include part of it into Provincial Highway No. 26 to complete an islandwide highway circuit project.
The 8km long Alangyi Ancient Trail (阿塱壹古道) in Pingtung County was established in the 1870s and used primarily by Aboriginal tribes for travel along the coast. In recent years, it has gained popularity among nature lovers because it follows the last stretch of Taiwanese coastline that is devoid of concrete wave breakers, dykes and blacktops.
However, government plans to construct a highway network circling Taiwan proper would mean cutting through the trail. Protests against the potential destruction of wildlife have been going on since the project passed an environment impact assessment by the Environmental Protection Administration in 2002.
Although the revised construction plan — moving the planned highway 200m inward from the coastline to preserve some ecologically sensitive areas — passed another environment impact assessment in December last year, environmental groups said the project would still be an ecological disaster.
The groups yesterday said they hoped to get 100,000 people to sign a petition by July 24 to preserve the Alangyi Ancient Trail — the deadline for being designated a “temporary nature reserve” by the Pingtung County Government according to the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (文化資產保存法).
So far, 38,000 people have signed the petition, the groups said.
Hung Hui-hsiang (洪輝祥), chairman of the Pingtung Environmental Protection Union, told a press conference in Taipei that the county government has only limited resources and authority to protect the ancient trail by extending the designation for another six months, so they hoped the central government would step in to help preserve the natural coastline by prohibiting further artificial construction.
A letter has also been written to each presidential candidate, urging them to listen to the people and protect the coastline.
“Public servants should listen to the masters of the nation — the people — and learn to appreciate our land,” Hung said, adding that “instead of the masters kneeling down in front of the servants for favors, we should stop them from destroying our land and to listen to our voices.”
Hung said the area has evolved into a unique world-class ecological corridor, with abundant and diverse species found in four climate zones within the 60km area.
Endangered species — such as green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) — have been observed in the area, he said.
“Taiwan will become a concrete jungle and the wilderness will be irreversibly destroyed if the highway is constructed,” Hung said. “It is an important link in the conservation of the natural environment in Taiwan.”
Writer Chang Hsiao-feng (張曉風) shared a poem that expressed the tranquility, serenity and purity she felt when walking the ancient trail.
Musician and environmental activist Matthew Lien said that a complete healthy ecosystem should be a connected one, from the seas to the mountains, but the planned highway would be cutting them into separate parts.