Ministry joins fray over water sports
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Ministry joins fray over water sports

  • By Shelley Shan / Staff reporter

Water sports are allowed on most of Taiwan’s rivers and lakes, Ministry of Transportation and Communications officials have said, amid calls by water sports enthusiasts to open up more of the nation’s waterways by abolishing Articles 36 and 60 in the Act for the Development of Tourism (發展觀光條例).

Article 36 states that the authorities can impose restrictions on the type, range, time and behaviors of aquatic activities for the safety of tourists and can announce the waterways on which such activities are forbidden, while Article 60 stipulates that water sports business operators found to contravene Article 36 face a fine of up to NT$150,000.

The Alliance of Open Policy for Water Sports in September last year proposed on the National Development Council’s Public Policy Network Participation Platform that the two articles be abolished. As 5,000 people on the platform have supported the proposal, the Tourism Bureau must formally respond to it.

The group said that the two articles allow the bureau to authorize local governments to regulate aquatic activities on waterways under their jurisdiction, which often results in such activities being restricted rather than encouraged.

“Articles 36 and 60 of the act have impeded the development of water sports, and the bureau should immediately amend the Regulations Governing Water Recreation Activities (水域遊憩活動管理辦法), the rules of enforcement for Article 36,” the group said.

“To amend the regulations, the bureau should first consult with experts and carefully review the amendment before making it public,” the group said. “The Sports Administration should announce precautions for water sports as well.”

Differences in how local governments manage water sports have also caused much confusion, the group said.

“There are two signs on the shores of Yilan County’s Longtan Lake (龍潭湖) that announce the fine for contravening the ban on water sports, one set up by the Yilan County Government and the other by the Tourism Bureau,” the group said. “The bureau’s sign displays a much heavier fine than the Yilan County Government’s sign, although they ban the same activity.”

The Yilan County Government has regulated the use of small boats and floaters that are not in the shape of boats, it said.

The county applies the rules to small boat business operators, while it bans individuals from engaging in rafting and other boating activities, the group said.

Local governments only ban water sports because they do not want to be held liable for accidents, the group said, adding that the government should educate people on water sports safety instead of imposing bans.

The Regulations Governing Water Recreation Activities generally allow water sports on rivers and lakes, but specifies exceptions, the ministry said, adding that local governments are given the right to restrict or ban water sports in some areas to protect tourists.

The bureau said in a meeting on April 22 — which representatives of the Alliance of Open Policy for Water Sports, experts and local government officials were invited to join — said that local governments should hold a public hearing before imposing regulations on water sports.

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