Academics yesterday urged the government to stop the development of a section of Taiwan Provincial Highway No. 26 that stretches from Taitung County to Pingtung County, which would overlap with the ancient Alangyi Trail (阿朗壹古道) and mar the last 1 percent of natural coastline remaining in Taiwan.
Construction of this section, which stretches from Taitung County’s Anshuo (安朔) tribal area to Pingtung County’s Hsuhai Village (旭海村), is set to complete the coastal highway around Taiwan.
Liao Pen-chuan (廖本全), host of yesterday’s press conference and a professor in National Taipei University’s real estate and built environment department, said the Alangyi Trail had been saved temporarily from destruction by Pingtung County Government’s decision in February to designate the section from Hsuhai (旭海) to Guanyin Cape (觀音鼻) in Pingtung a temporary nature reserve.
Accompanying the designation, a one-year investigation of the animals and plants in the area is also planned by the county government.
However, academics and the public are worried the government will resume construction at some point, and this is why a petition to preserve the trail and surrounding natural environment was initiated, Liao said.
To date, 700 academics from 88 universities and 244 departments and 881 civic groups are among the 55,046 people who have signed the petition.
Chen Wen-shan (陳文山), a professor at National Taiwan University’s geology department, said having visited several areas throughout the nation on geological observation and research trips during the past years, he sometimes thought about where he had seen the most beautiful scenery.
“After going back through my memories, I found that the most beautiful places are those that have no man-made construction,” he said, adding that the natural environment along the trail was one of these beautiful places unmarred by humans.
From a geological perspective, Chen said the environment in the Hsuhai wetlands was an indicator of the climate of Southern Taiwan in ancient times and was a rare natural wetlands in a highland area.
“Taiwan is already overdeveloped and the government has always stressed the importance of development,” said Chiu Hei-yuan (瞿海源), a research fellow in sociology at Academia Sinica, adding that in many cases, environmental impact assessments have succumbed to fixed development policies.
David Chang (張長義), a professor at National Taiwan University’s geography department, said sometimes “no use is the best use,” in issues concerning sustainable development.
He said the ancient trail has its rich historical significance since it is one of the few remaining trails that were used more than a century ago, and it also has a natural coastline with a gravel bank.
Moreover, dirt dug out for the construction of the highway would put the natural ecology in jeopardy if not properly disposed of, he said.
Allen Chen (陳昭倫), a research fellow on coral reef evolutionary ecology and genetics at Academia Sinica’s Biodiversity Research Center, said there are about 22 species of crab and 563 species of plants along the trail.
Paiwan tribal elder Atinpon Gu (古英勇) said the area would only remain unique if its historical and cultural significance is preserved, as well as its natural scenery.
“Now people often live under a lot of stress from work and friction with other people, and hospitals can’t heal this kind of illness,” he said. “What they need is to clarify their souls in the face of nature, in places like the ancient Alangyi Trail.”
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