Popular Festivals Disturb Local Property and Environment in Taiwan: Advocates

Popular Festivals Disturb Local Property and Environment in Taiwan: Advocates

What you need to know

Taiwan’s famous balloon and lantern festivals, although good for tourism, trouble locals and environmental advocates.

The Taiwan International Balloon Festival has become the most popular tourism attraction in Taitung, but balloon landings have caused damage to some local properties. In protest, one local farmer has decided to bar the balloons from his farm.

Lin Yi-long (林義隆), who owns a pineapple farm near the Luye Gaotai (鹿野高臺) hot air balloon area, said on Facebook on July 3 that local farmers have not been receiving fair treatment from event organizers.

Lin claimed that every year since 2013, a hot air balloon has landed on his farm during the festival, damaging more than 10 pineapple plants each time.

Despite several attempts to contact the Taitung County Government, the Civil Aeronautics Administration and the balloon company, Sky Rainbow Hot Air Balloon, to file a complaint and request compensation for his losses, Lin says he has not yet seen any action taken or received compensation from either the authorities or the organizers.

In other cases, festival staff caused disturbances when they drove their trucks across farmland to collect balloons, and some pilots landed balloons on fields they perceived to be cropless, without permission.

Lin said that early in the morning of July 3, he chased away a balloon that was about to land on his farm. He admitted that he was not friendly when communicating with the Dutch pilot.

In his post, Lin explained that he is not against the festival and is pleased to see tourism boosted by the event, but he thinks the local private farms should not automatically become free landing zones for balloons. He does not care about the amount of compensation and hopes the event organizers can treat the farmers and private landowners respectfully.

Sky Rainbow Hot Air Balloon says it marks the areas where balloons are allowed to land in an aerial photo handed out each pilot. While local pilots are already familiar with the areas, most foreign pilots are not as clear with the local geography.

The company also stresses that in addition to the balloons carrying a limited amount of gas, pilots can only control the upward and downward movements of the balloons, but cannot maneuver them left or right. This makes it difficult to avoid the farms when landing.

Launched in 2011, the Taiwan International Balloon Festival runs for more than a month and includes balloon contests, style balloon exhibitions and music concerts. The festival has been a commercial success, attracting more than 500,000 tourists and creating business opportunities worth more than NT$2.5 billon (US$77.5 million) and more than 4,000 jobs.

Sky lantern festival also threatening environment

This is not the first time that a tourism event in Taiwan has led to environmental concerns.

In recent years, animal protection groups and environmentalists have been worried about the impact of releasing sky lanterns — a popular custom that originated from Chinese tradition.

Every year, New Taipei City holds the Taiwan Sky Lantern Festival in Pingxi District, a festival listed by National Geographic as one of the best winter trip destinations in the world. According to recent data, around 600,000 sky lanterns were released at the festival in 2015.

Animal and environmental advocates have warned that burned-out lanterns, which may have paint and unexhausted fuel, trap birds and owls in the mountains, litter animal habitats, cause mountain fires, and pollute soil and water.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: Edward White