Typhoon Megi certainly made headlines of the Chinese circle in October. Megi was not projected to hit Taiwan at first. As fate should have it, interactions between Megi and monsoon weather patterns brought heavy rainfall to Taiwan, and torrential rains led to deadly landslides. According to the press, as of October 24, floods and landslides had killed as many as 31 people in this island. Unfortunately, most of these casualties happened in the scenic Suhua Highway along the east coast of Taiwan and to tourists. As a matter of fact, there is still a busload of about 20 mainland Chinese missing at this very moment.
Suhua Highway is 118-kilometer long starting from Suao, Yilan County and ending at Hualien City. With a major portion built alongside very steep cliffs high above the Pacific Ocean, it is a dangerous yet scenic drive. Part of the southern end is Taroko Gourge, one of the most visited tourist attractions in Taiwan. And this is also the only way to drive from Hualien to Taipei, the island’s capital, other than taking the railway or turning around through the southern tip of Taiwan.
There were always damage and casualties in Suhua after most typhoons, especially for those directly made landfalls in the eastern part of Taiwan. But none has been this serious in the past. In the wake of serious landslides caused by Typhoon Megi, calls have been mounting for an early start of an alternate Suhua Highway. The building of an alternate route has been heatedly debated for many years due to environmental concern. Due to this time’s heavy losses, the government has pledged again that the project must be launched as soon as possible to provide residents in eastern Taiwan “a safe road to travel home.”
The alternate route will definitely be a safer route because it will not cut through the most treacherous sections of coastal cliffs. However, tourists are drawn to Suhua due to its natural beauty. Natural beauty is inherently precarious. Tourism is a major industry that has been vigorously promoted in most countries, to which Taiwan is no exception. It goes without saying Taiwan will continue to introduce its most unspoiled landscape, which is exactly the eastern coast, to the international community. As a result, tourists can still be attracted to the deadly beauty of Suhua Highway and blocking completely its access amounts to a waste of natural resources.
Hence, in addition to building a safer road, the establishment of an early-warning system is also very important. The authorities should try to closely monitor the treacherous areas and take precautionary measures in advance to prevent injuries and casualties caused by natural disasters without diminishing the value of natural beauty. And with the Taiwan’s advanced ICT, this should be feasible after due efforts.