If you have to be rescued, you will pay

  • Colours of China
  • Monday, 29 Oct 2018

FED up with the many cases of rule-breaking visitors who end up in distress, a nature reserve in Sichuan province wants such people to pay for emergency assistance.

Local authorities in charge of the Daocheng Yading mountainous scenic spot in south-western Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture have announced that a fee of 15,000 yuan (RM9,000) or 20,000 yuan (RM12,000), depending on the area, would be charged for each rescue mission. This excludes transport and medical costs.

The move has received immense support, according to a survey by the China Youth Daily.

About 69% of the 2,008 respondents, mostly born after the 1980s, agreed that the fee should be imposed on hikers who need to be rescued as a result of disobeying rules. On the other hand, 22.3% felt that it was uncaring to make people pay for their rescue.

Pay per rescue: The cliff on the left is where a hiker fell off while climbing the wild Jiankou Great Wall in Beijing on Oct 21.
Pay per rescue: The cliff on the left is where a hiker fell off while climbing the wild Jiankou Great Wall in Beijing on Oct 21.  

More than two-thirds of the respondents said the introduction of the fee would help raise safety awareness among hikers and avoid wasting public resources, while 57.3% said it was a form of punishment for those who ignored the rules.

Only 10.6% said that by making people pay for rescue costs, the local authorities and rescuers were not taking responsibility for the services they were obliged to provide.

The respondents wanted the rules at scenic spots to be made clear so that visitors who follow these rules but are victims of pure misfortune will not be penalised in any way.

Known for its unspoiled natural beauty, unique landscapes and stunning snow-capped mountains, the Daocheng Yading scenic spot is located at an altitude of between 1,900m and 6,000m above sea level.

The authorities there explained that a lot of people and resources are deployed to rescue hikers who ventured into forbidden zones.

A worker said some 800 people walk across the land illegally and into the protected areas every year. There were also cases of illegal hiking on the mountains and trespass into non-developed zones.

“A rescue operation is tough here due to the vast area, limited network coverage, complicated landscapes and uncountable access ways. Each rescue team consists of about 30 people,” he said.

It was reported that each rescue mission took two to three days. The locals are paid 300 yuan (RM180) a day for each horse rented from them for such an operation. Allowance for each rescuer is 500 yuan (RM300) a day and is double that amount during peak seasons.

On Sept 9, a tourist suffered high-altitude sickness and died at the scenic spot.

The 54-year-old was walking across the nature reserve illegally, together with three friends, all from Guangdong province.

Daocheng Yading is not the first scenic spot that has asked errant tourists to cough up for rescue charges.

Mount Huangshan, a Unesco World Heritage Site in Anhui province, has done the same.

In 2016, more than 200 people were found to have ignored safety warnings and strayed into non-developed areas at the famous tourist destination.

Some of them were stranded at dangerous spots or lost their way in the deep valleys.

Last year, three trespassers were fined and told to pay 42,500 yuan (RM25,500) for their rescue at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan.

The trio got stuck, with one of them suffering from mountain sickness, after entering a restricted zone despite the no-entry signs put up by the management. They were rescued six days later.

The China Youth Daily survey aside, people are divided over these rescue charges.

Some say reckless travellers should bear the rescue costs because their irresponsible actions led to the use of public resources.

But others argue that saving lives must be a priority and that the charges will not stop those seeking excitement and challenges from endangering themselves.

For tourists in Beijing, the Great Wall of China is a must-go destination, be it the jam-packed Badaling stretch, the popular Mutianyu and Simatai stretches, or the sections in the Hebei province.

There are many more “wild Great Wall” around the capital. These are in ruins and probably too dangerous for the average tourists. But some avid hikers relish the thrill of exploring these quiet but potentially treacherous parts of this Wonder of the World.

Last week, a hiker fell off a near-vertical cliff of the Jiankou Great Wall after losing her grip. She could not move her upper body and felt pain in the head and body when rescuers found her.

Jiankou Great Wall, located in Huairou district about 100km from downtown Beijing, is known as the most dangerous stretch of the Great Wall. Despite numerous warnings from the Fire and Rescue Depart­ment, some people still fancy visiting Jiankou to see the original architecture of the Great Wall.

It takes a hiker some 12 hours to cover the 20km stretch.

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