Pingtung aims to limit access to historic Ahlangyi trail

The China Post news staff

The China Post news staff–The standoff on economic development and ecological conservation concerning Ahlangyi historical trail on Taiwan’s southeastern coast between southeastern Taitung County and southern Pingtung County has attracted flocks of travelers.

The Ahlangyi historical trail on the border of Taitung and Pingtung was one of the eight ancient vertical passages constructed in Taiwan by the imperial Qing government during the 1874-1895 period.

The narrow path is also the southernmost among the eight ancient east-west mountainous trails on the island. The Pingtung County Government has announced a plan requiring applications ahead of time for people going through the 4-kilometer section of the trail in the county in order to protect the natural environment that has become the habitat for hundreds of rare species of animals and plants. Citing research and studies by experts, the county government said natural resources should be placed under close monitoring so that the area will not be destroyed by the large number of visitors. Pingtung has also effectively blocked the construction of provincial Highway No. 26 going through the Ahlangyi trail area, fearing of damage to the conservation region. However, the Taitung County Government was concerned that the unilateral move by Pingtung could effectively block the traffic flow on the trail and affect the tourism and other business operations within the region. The stalemate and debate between the two counties have helped publicize the historical Ahlangyi trail as the average number of travelers visiting the area surged to more than 1,000 every day from just a few hundred in the past. In order to break the impasse, the Taitung County Government has asked the central government to intervene to help settle the dispute so that the economic development in the county will not be affected. The Pingtung County Government said it is willing to support the plan of maintaining the natural habitats and spurring economic development at the same time. But the central government should better articulate its plans by revamping the transport system in the area and avoid causing negative environmental impact in the area, said Pingtung officials. Experts say this is another typical case in Taiwan with the tug of war between economic development and ecological conservation, similar to that of the Suhua Highway linking Suao City of northern Yilan County and Hualien City on the east coast. Closer coordination among Pingtung and Taitung County governments and the central government is needed to help break the standoff, they said.