Monday, June 09, 2014

Truku aboriginals shut down Mugumuyu over excessive tourism, police vow to prosecute

Vans pouring out of Mugumuyu.

UPDATE: Don't miss the comments below.

Mugumuyu is a stunning and rich river gorge southwest of Hualien city, just west of Liyu Lake. Last month I biked into Mugumuyu to enjoy its beauty, but got rained out. Nevertheless, I noted the number of small buses and vans flowing in and out, an appalling number of visitors, when supposedly the number was controlled. So I was dismayed, but unsurprised, to hear that the local aboriginal community had finally taken matters into its own hands and shut the road into their community down, to block the endless flow of vans in and out. TT observes:
Prior to blocking the road, the residents performed a ritual at a monument erected in remembrance of 39 villagers who were buried by mudslides triggered by Typhoon Ofelia in 1990 by firing gunshots into the air and sending up smoke signals, declaring to their ancestral spirits their determination to defend their traditional territory.

“It’s not that we do not welcome visitors, but since our village has been opened to outside visitors in 2006, there have been on average more than 100 minibuses bringing in about 3,000 visitors per day on holidays,” village council chairman Masaw said.

“The large number of vehicles has polluted the air, creates traffic jams on the roads and makes it difficult for us to go to work in the fields,” he added.

Rakaw Didi, a spokesman for the village, which is administratively known as Tongmen Village (銅門), said that to maintain the village’s ecology and quality of life, the village council passed resolutions at the end of last month to close off the village for a year and to ask future visitors to enter into the village on foot, not in cars.
Now the local news is reporting that the police plan to prosecute the aborigines. Of course.
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Cary Allen said...

I used to bike up there all the time when I lived in Hualien (mid 90s). Never saw anyone but locals who were mildly amused, but very friendly. It's very beautiful up there, but no one ever really paid any attention to it, and there was a police checkpoint, but they were just as curious and chatty as everyone else, and would only admonish us to be careful, presumably because an injured foreigner is just a lot of trouble for everyone.

I don't know what 'opened for tourism' is supposed to mean, but an additional 3,000 people a day in that narrow valley must be a nightmare. Walk or bicycle in only seems like a reasonable demand.

Ryan said...

I used to spend a lot of time up in that gorge before the tourist hordes took it over. There is a cap on the number of tourists allowed into the gorge at any one time. It's usually maxxed out by 8:00am. It has become categorically impossible for anyone other than a tourist to get in there on a weekend or holiday. I'm surprised this didn't happen earlier.

Mike Fagan said...

I would love to know the name of the tiny reservoir up in the mountains of that valley.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly the reason why "tourism" as promoted and envisioned by the government and industry is wrong headed and dumb.

The sentiment expressed in Haulien is also not isolated. I noticed signs on Sun Moon Lake last year lambasting the same sorts of tourism.

In my view, a broader definition of "environmentalism" is needed as the basis for economic development and wealth generation. Instead of trying to scale up the tour bus industry, why not ration access, raise prices, and share profits openly and directly with the people.

Marc said...

I think there's a lot more to this story than this simple protest, beginning with who exactly these protesters are.

There are three townships or villages in this area, three different tribes, 8 major clans and each township has their own Han gov't rep. Originally there was some objection to asking the gov't for funds to turn this place into a managed natural resource area. Even the name of the place is political--it's the name of the largest clan who only recently got permission to change the name of their village from the Han name.

Although I think QOL and environment are partly at issue, I wonder if this could also be about hordes of tourists coming into the area, despoiling it, and NOT SPENDING ANY MONEY buying food, souvenirs and Tongmen knives.

Anonymous said...

Good on the Truku for shutting the tourists out. Shame on the government if they prosecute the locals

les said...

I remember years ago asking why these areas were off-limits to visitors. Expecting some Stalinist reason like controlling the movements of nosy foreigners or troublemaking missionaries, I was surprised to hear that it was to protect the 'innocent' and 'vulnerable' natives from exploitation from Han who would grab their land and property for a few beads otherwise. There was also the fear that such actions might (again) start a bloody feud between the two ethnic groups.

Interesting how this is suddenly not any concern at all.

Marc you hint at troubles between the tribes. I've seen myself how bringing a relatively tiny amount of money into an area like this can start all sorts of vicious competition between factions in the same clan, let alone between different ethnic groups. On the one hand I hate to see how tourism brings masses of people in, how it's mostly Han that benefit, and how all the environmental issues get left for the locals to deal with. On the other, it's shocking to see how the locals can get so quickly to trying to screw each other over for access to some of that money. Usually it's lose/lose.