Taiwan Route 26 Expansion Plans Will Devastate the Fragile Ecology of the Hengchun Peninsula

Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, Pingdong Chapter Chairperson Hong Hui-hsiang

The environmental impact assessment discrepancy analysis for "Taiwan Route 26 overall improvement plan for the section between Anshuo and Gangkou" completely ignored that the greatest environmental impact and disturbance of the plan is the fact that paving a highway through a region that previously had no highway will impact the entire ecosystem of the Hengchun Peninsula, not just the environment immediately adjacent to the highway. Narrowly focusing assessment only along the route of the planned highway and the planned method of construction is to quibble over trifles while neglecting the enormous impact such development would have.

In 1983 when Kending National Park was established on the Hengchun Peninsula, 17 relatively large mammal species could still be found in the area, but by a few years ago that number has dropped to 7. According to the studies of countless researchers the reason is the overdevelopment of a crowded network of highways cutting up the habitat. They further suggested establishing a relatively undisturbed, low development, generally preserved habitat and ecological corridor between the northern edge of the park and the central mountain range. If the round-island highway network is completed, according to the Transport Research Institute Plan the rate of highway runoff in the area will reach 495 per year. It's enough to constitute a final blow to the ecology of the entire Hengchun Peninsula and National Park. Whereas this sort of environmental impact was not included in the assessment, the investigation only focused on technical aspects of the development plan. Clearly the spirit of the Environmental Impact Assessment Law was ignored, and the EIA committee members were unable to make an assessment based on the overall impact of the plan.

Highway transport is already a primary perpetrator of climate change. Taiwan's round-island highway network has become a threat to the genetic links between life on the island and the sea. The section between Hsuhai and Nantian now under examination only comprises 1 percent of the total round-island highway network, but the region's sensitive ecology and stunning scenery lie in the only remaining undisturbed area of habitat that comprises the final genetic link between the peninsula and Central Mountain Range. Once this section of road is approved and the transport corridor is completed, 24 hour division will result. The Central Mountain Range and the National Park will be cut off by four east-west routes. From north to south they are: The Southern Rail Link, The Southern Highway (Taiwan Route 9), Pingdong County Road 199, Pingdong County Road 200 and Taiwan Route 26. The continual slicing up of this already vulnerable habitat creates exponentially growing disturbance. In the end only one species of mammal will remain: humans.

With a length of 12.87 kilometers and at a cost of 1.85 billion NT, Alangyi Historical Trail lies at the final section of the round-island highway network. But there are also a thousand years of indigenous cultural heritage and 10,000 years of ecology and natural scenery. It will be a huge disaster if the remaining 1 percent of the round-island highway network is paved through the area. Impacts include:

1. The ecological corridor of the Hengchun Peninsula will be cut up by a dense transport network.

2. Fast and convenient transportation will cutoff the genetic reservoir of Kending National Park.

3. Taiwan's Citizens will lose Taiwan's most well-preserved eco-travel region.

4. Local residents will also lose their richest tourism resources.

5. The best classroom of ecology and natural scenery in Taiwan will be washed away.

6. The best scenery in Taiwan that includes mountains, lakes and rivers, and the sea will be gone.

7. Alangyi Historical Trail will become a terrible "nuclear waste highway".

8. For 40 minutes of convenience, we will be cursed by the generations that succeed us.

Feasible alternatives

1. Transport corridors should be planned according to the principles of low concentration, low impact, and no development, respecting the ecological sensitivity of the region.

2. Preserve the cultural resources of the historical trail and the unique biodiversity of areas where rivers meet the sea.

3. Create regulatory mechanisms to guarantee an ecological corridor for the transmission of genetic material between Kending National Park and the Central Mountain Range.

4. Develop local ecotourism (Manzhou, Mudan, Daren), subsidize limited development of the necessary lodging and ecotourism resources.

5. Plan for bicycles and hiking trails in order to get close to nature, and abandon the disruption, large numbers, and pollution associated with development of highways.

6. Preserve the final 1 percent of Taiwan's natural coast, establish a coastal protected area, and create a region that's the most suitable for study of the ocean in Taiwan.

Preserve this area as a low development zone, and leave for a Taiwan a trail immersed in culture and rambling through a corridor of ancient ecology. Preserve a region where the nature of the land can meet the ocean, and preserve this final classroom of ecology for our descendents. This is the responsibility of the EIA Committee.