Early one morning, I rode my bike to Bitan (碧潭) in New Taipei City’s Sindian District (新店) and, at the end of the path, found a pile of plastic floats on the riverbank, which reminded me that construction of a bike route upstream to Jhihtan (直潭) and on to Wulai (烏來) was due to start.
Last year, the city government obtained funds to construct a riverbank bike path from Bitan to Wulai under the development of water environments category of the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program.
On Feb. 13, the Chinese-language Liberty Times (sister newspaper of the Taipei Times) reported that a 135m-long section of the bike path could not be connected, as it would pass in front of a city-designated historic site, the stone chamber for diverting water to Dapinglinjhen (大坪林圳), an old canal system.
Opposition from local historians and academics persuaded officials at the New Taipei Water Resources Department to research the matter further and submit it for review at the city’s Bureau of Culture.
Taipei lies in a basin surrounded by mountains and rivers, and bike paths have been built on both sides of almost every river and creek, connecting New Taipei City’s Tamsui District (淡水) to Sindian, Taipei’s Nangang (南港) and Muzha (木柵) districts, as well as New Taipei City’s Sinjhuang (新莊) and Sansia (三峽) districts in the west.
The bike path network extends in all directions, but when it reaches Sindian ferry point, it is impeded by the rock basin and steep cliffs along the Sindian River. The planned solution is to build a 135m-long floating bridge across the water.
According to a city government briefing, a project has been proposed to the Water Resources Agency to construct scenic spots along the river from Bitan to Wulai, to be subsidized under the nationwide water environment improvement project.
The first phase would build a 970m-long bike path from the Sindian ferry point to the Cingtan Bridge (青潭橋), while the second phase would construct an 873m-long bike path that extends to Sinwu Road Sec 1.
The total length would be about 1.85km and the two sections would cost NT$110 million (US$3.57 million), a miniscule amount compared with the NT$250 billion budget for water environment infrastructure development under the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program.
Nevertheless, the public is worried that the bike path would be underused and might pose safety risks. According to Article 6 of the Regulation of River Management (河川管理辦法), a “flood-control structure” is a dike, revetment, spur dike, check dam, submerged dam, groundsill or sluice gate employed in dike facilities and other river management construction.
Floats are not permanently fixed in place, and when a flood peaks, they could cause severe damage downstream if they are not moved in time. Article 78 of the Water Act (水利法) prohibits the dumping of soil and other debris that can block water flow. Huge plastic floats made of polyethylene or polypropylene floating on the water would certainly impede water flow.
The government should be applauded for a policy that recognizes the public need for sightseeing, sports and recreation, but the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program should not simply be about spending money on progressive ideas. This unnecessary construction goes against the government’s policy to reduce plastic use, and the public would fall victim to the project’s negative impact rather than benefit from the policy.
Chang Chien-chang is a volunteer in environmental education.
Translated by Chang Ho-ming
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