Taiwan tropical isle going green with vehicle ban

Fri Nov 20, 2009 1:59am EST
 
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TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - Travelers to a tiny tropical island off Taiwan can soon expect the air quality to match the pristine marine attractions under an initiative to replace gasoline-powered vehicles with electric ones.

Over the coming three years, Pingtung county in southern Taiwan plans to spend T$300 million to T$500 million ($9.3 million to $15.5 million) on phasing out all petrol-powered scooters, cars and buses on the islet of Liuqiu, country official Chung Chia-pin said Friday.

Electric scooters will be available to the roughly 300,000 tourists who visit Liuqiu every year and county leaders have already arranged 400 electric-powered scooters, and offered subsidies, for the 12,000 islanders to buy them.

"It would be the first island in all of Asia without traditional fuel-powered vehicles," Chung said.

Liuqiu, eight nautical miles from Taiwan's main island, draws divers and snorkelers with its tropical marine life. The headline beach attraction is Vase Rock, named for its decanter-like shape.

County officials hope eventually to extend the ban on gasoline-powered vehicles to other parts of sometimes smoggy Pingtung, which depends on traditional industry and fish farming as well as crowds of tourists who drive in from the north.

Fuel-free Liuqiu follows the Taiwan parliament's passage in June of a renewable energy law.

(Reporting by Ralph Jennings, editing by Miral Fahmy)