Mon, Dec 24, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Shezidao residents need better guarantees

By Pan Wei-yiu 潘威佑

The Shezidao (社子島) peninsula in Taipei is an alluvial plain located at the confluence of the Sindian River (新店溪) and Keelung River (基隆河). Following the disastrous 1953 flooding brought by Typhoon Kit, the Taipei City Government designated the tip of Shezidao as a flood-prone area and banned development, making it available only for agricultural use and green space.

It also stopped issuing construction permits for Yanping N Road Sec 7 to Sec 9 and no construction has occurred in the area for 40 years, with the result that Shezidao now is one of very few undeveloped communities in Taipei.

In May 2010, the Cabinet approved a new flood prevention plan for the Taipei area. Based on a 200-year flood scenario, levees in Shezidao were raised to 9.65m and most of the Shezidao plain was elevated to 8.15m to improve flood prevention.

The municipal development plans for the area take flood prevention as a starting point. They reference the Feb. 28, 2016, i-Voting poll on the development of Shezidao, in which the majority of voters favoured the ecological development plan for the area.

Integrating these plans with Taipei’s city planning, the local population was fixed at 30,000 after development, and it was decided that the area should be connected to the external environment via the Shilin and Beitou district tech industry corridor and the Hongshulin ecological area.

By preserving the ecological wetland along the river banks, turning roads and streets into ecological green corridors, and building parks around historical buildings in addition to smaller parks — while at the same time incorporating leisure space and the living environment — an overall plan is to be created for ecological parks and green space by reviewing idle land and cramped spaces.

The plan is to also make use of surrounding land to connect open, but unconnected spaces and recreate the area’s original attraction and charm.

Any development and construction must be aimed at improving the environment and raising living standards in the area.

However, residents and many cultural workers are concerned about the development of Shezidao and worry that the area’s beauty — which, in addition to its ecological diversity, also includes a rich history and culture, and close local relationships and interactions — could come under attack as these kinds of natural ecological environments and human relations are gradually disappearing from urban areas.

Most of the original Shezidao residents are not opposed to development, but faced with the complicated and opaque development plans, they feel helpless, in particular in matters concerning questionable disputes over fair and just land rezoning and distribution, as well as temporary living arrangements during the development period.

Another issue that must be addressed is the even more difficult question of lifestyle changes and the accompanying economic pressures once development is complete.

When it comes to these issues, the government, as a responsible government in a democratic nation, should step up communication with residents, propose concrete and easily understandable explanations, and protect their legal rights.

It should also provide a complete and feasible program of assistance measures to build credibility and trust among residents, so that the development of the area resolves issues that have been left festering for a long time.

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