A group of 30 Japanese tourists recently visited the Jioufen Old Street in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Ruifang District (瑞芳), hoping to experience a sense of nostalgia strolling through the famous street. However, the famous tourist attraction did not live up to their expectations, as they were greeted by the foul smell of trash left by tourists the day before.
Jioufen Commercial Area executive chief Lai Wen-yu (賴文煜) said that the amount of trash was not surprising, given that “the entire length of the Jioufen Old Street has only three public trash cans.”
After New Taipei City became a special municipality, it asked stores in its boundaries to keep private trash cans off the streets in an effort to maintain a “no trash on the street” policy, Lai said.
The city government’s department of environmental protection had also notified stores on the street that they were responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of the area around their shops or else face fines under the Waste Disposal Act (廢物清理法), he said.
Although the city government has hired two cleaners to sweep the streets every day, an increase in the number of tourists, as well as the habit of businesses and inhabitants on the street of tossing their trash into the three sidewalk trash cans which the city government had put in place, the number of trash cans on the streets is not enough, Lai said.
Lai added that the two cleaners also had their hands full trying to keep the street clean because it was inevitable that tourists, unable to find trash cans, would toss their trash on the streets.
The Jioufen area has been struggling to keep its streets clean while it enjoys a large number of tourist visitors after being listed as No. 1 on a “must-visit” list for foreign tourists issued by the Ministry of Transportation and Communication’s Tourism Bureau, Lai said.
The bureau has also been made aware of the environmental problem in the area, and made an effort to address the issue last year by allotting Shueinandong (水湳洞), Jinguashih (金瓜石) and Jioufen (九份) areas NT$300 million (US$10 million) in funds.
It was the first area to be selected by the bureau for subsidies, and Tourism Bureau Deputy Director-General Wayne Liu (劉喜臨) said that should the environmental sanitary problem worsen, the local governments would have to shoulder the responsibility and face possible retraction of the bureau’s grants.
New Taipei City Councilor Yan Shih-hsiung (顏世雄), who is a member of the Jioufen Commercial Area committee, has called for the businesses in the commercial area to attend a meeting at the end of this month to discuss proposals to resolve the litter issue.
Preliminary plans are to place more trash cans in the street, and for the businesses in the area to shoulder the cost for the trash bags and cleaning crew, Yan said, adding that it was within the Jioufen Commercial Area’s ability to shoulder the costs if the Tamsui (淡水) Old Street Area could itself shoulder the fees for 64 public trash cans and a cleaning crew.
The New Taipei City Department of Tourism and Travel has expressed approval for the proposal and said it would do its best to help. The city’s department of environmental protection said that it was willing to hear any new proposals from businesses in the commercial area.