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Implementation of Taroko Rockfall Response Program

I. Origin and basis

  • Origin

    The Taroko Gorge is internationally renowned for its beautiful scenery. In 2019, the national park received over 4.82 million visitors. The occurrence of Rockfalls within Taroko National Park poses a significant safety hazard for Park visitors, especially within the section of marble gorge between Taroko and Tianxiang in Taroko National Park, where the overwhelming majority of visitors frequent.
  • Basis

    When the former Vice Minister of the Interior Chien Tai-lang inspected Taroko under the instructions of the National Defense Group on April 9 2012, he pointed out that rockfalls put visitors at risk and said that the problem needed to be urgently resolved. He stated that the Tunnel of Nine Turns (Jiuqudong) should be given priority and instructed Taroko National Park Administration to promptly submit a program to the Executive Yuan. Furthermore, on June 28, 2014, Premier Chiang Yi-hua expressed concern about the “rockfall protection” handling situation during an inspection visit to Taroko. The Executive Yuan has approved the mid-term plan implementation for Taroko National Park on June 9, 2015. The Taroko Gorge Rockfall Response Program has been implemented as part of the 2016-2018 National Park Plan and had a budget of NT$ 443.31 million.

II. Area Covered and Responsibilities within Plan

  • The area include in the main plan covers the rock faces along the most-frequently visited section of the Central Cross-Island Highway, Taroko - Tianxiang (Provincial Highway 8, 169K+940 to 188K+500, 18.56 kilometers in total) and facilities on the highway. Taroko Roadworks Section, The Fourth Maintenance Office of the Directorate General of Highways, MOTC is in charge for highway-related road works. Taroko National Park Headquarters is in charge for scenic spots along the highway.

III. Program Strategy

  • This program intends Intended to raise the level of service quality and visitor safety. The contents of the program plan are summarized below:
  • Daily operational management
    • An emergency rescue system, Standard Operating Procedures, disaster emergency response, emergency rescue plans, etc. have all been established; safety education and advocacy have been enhanced, and safety helmets provided as primary protection. The maximum insurance benefit per person of the National Park Accident Liability Insurance's additional rockfall insurance was increased to NT$5 million in August, 2014.
  • Early warning environmental monitoring
    • The park Administration has established a routine patrol monitoring mechanism; for example, Swallow Grotto (Yanzikou) Trail is patrolled every day and findings used as the basis for deciding whether the trail is open or closed, and the Directions for Closure of Leisure Facilities and Areas of Taroko National Park Administration have also been formulated as the basis for management in the event of earthquakes, typhoons or torrential rain.
    • Geological and hydrological surveys have been carried out in the Tunnel of Nine Turns (Jiuqudong), Swallow Grotto (Yanzikou), Eternal Spring Shrine (Changchun Shrine) areas and other areas, related maps collected and LiDar (Light Detection and Ranging), aerial photography and other technology used for analysis, assessment and surveying to further protect against disaster-causing factors.
  • Taroko Gorge Rockfall Response Program Plan
    • A:
      (1) Handle visitor insurance within the Gorge, monitor rockfalls, maintain and service facilities; (2) Implement the Xiaozhuilu Trail project (finished), and the Swallow Grotto Jinheng Park rockfall protection project (finished). The Tunnel of Nine Turns Scenic Tunnel and trail landscape protection project was set for completion in 2016; however, due to financial difficulties encountered by the sub-contractor, the contract was terminated. Work was resumed after midway settlement and re-awarding of contract, so the completion time has thus been delayed. The rest of construction work has completed. The rockfall protection construction work has been completed and the west 700 m of the Tunnel of Nine Turns Trail has reopened on June 24 2019.
    • B:
      Continue to implement the: (1) Xiaozhongheng (Sub-Zhongheng) (Small Central Cross-Island Highway) Plan (optimize the Taroko-Shakadang-Eternal Spring Shrine (Changchun Shrine)), (2)Shanyue Suspension Bridge project at Buluowan (For visitor safety and dispersal, the building of Shanyue Suspension Bridge was given priority. Site selection was completed in 2014, construction work began on August 1, 2016, and the Shanyuan Suspension Bridge had been completed in September 2019. Peripheral service facilities including accessibility facilities to the bridge have been completed to be optimized to disperse visitors to safe places to view the scenery, the Shanyue Suspension Bridge opened on August 12, 2020.), (3) Buluowan cultural highlights, (4) Suhua and mid-high elevation areas visitor dispersal plans, and (5) Baiyang trail facility and slope stabilization construction work, set for completion 2014-2019, the construction work had been completed in 2019.
    • C:
      In accordance with the planning conception of the Taroko Gorge Rockfall Response Program, the Park Headquarters will source funding, and continue to implement the program from 2016 to 2020.
  • Plan Objectives
    • 1. Increase the disaster prevention capability of facilities and, in combination with management of disaster avoidance and conformity to disaster, carry out visitor dispersal on a priority basis.
    • 2. Combine near-natural landscape engineering methods and universal design to promote rockfall protection related facility projects.
    • 3. Promote the achievement of a sustainable, safe, and leisurely environment.

IV. Results

    • (1) The park administration has actively addressed the problem of rockfalls in recent years; The Xiaozhuilu Trail was opened on November 2, 2015, linking Taroko and Shakadang. The third stage of the rockfall protection construction work on the section of at Swallow Grotto (Yanzikou) trail (Jinheng Park), that is often crowded with vehicles and people was completed in February 2018. These projects will ultimately strengthen tourist safety.
    • (2) To improve in visitor safety and dispersal, the building of the Shanyue Suspension Bridge was given priority. Site selection was completed in 2014, the construction work began on August 1, 2016. The Shanyuan Suspension Bridge had been completed in September 2019. Peripheral service facilities will continue to be optimized to prevent overcrowding, to disperse visitors, and to improve scenic spots. After the completion of managerial measurement preparation, the Shanyuan Suspension Bridge opened on August 12, 2020.
    • (3) The most important aspect of operational management at present is to enhance visitor safety advocacy and to further spread dispersal of visitors across the Park; in coordination with highway and police units and Hualien County Government, a Shakadang and Eternal Spring Shrine traffic dispersal plan was implemented and an off-road temporary parking lot was opened to large vehicles on January 13, 2016, established at Xiagu Bridge (closed to the east entrance of Taroko gorge) on the Central Cross-Island Highway, effectively improving safety and reducing traffic congestion.
    • (4) The Taroko Gorge Rockfall Response Program will continue to be implemented as part of to Taroko National Park Plan with a budget depending upon requirements to enhance recreation qualities and reinforce tourists’ safety.