Mon, Oct 20, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Nankan river gets cleaned?

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT Vigorous post-disaster rehabilitation construction includes new eco-friendly embankments to improve flood control and save wildlife

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Nankan river in Taoyuan County looks very different after recent clean-up work and embankment construction.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

When Chu Hsiao-hua (朱曉華) and her husband moved into a newly-completed high-rise building beside the Nankan river in Taoyuan County four years ago, they had never imagined that the tranquil river would be turned into a flood threat two years later.

"We were so frightened when we saw the river rising. It seemed that the water would flush into our community at any time," Chu recalled the scenario when Typhoon Nari hit northern Taiwan in September, 2001.

Chu, now the mother of a three-year-old child, often spends her leisure time with her family walking along the river's buffering zone, which has been turned into a green belt by environmentally-friendly flood-control engineering.

"I think living by the riverside is perfect, as long as the new embankments are able to resist floods," Chu said.

Chu actually has the government's guarantee. Kuo Ching-chiang (郭清江), Vice Chairman of the Cabinet's Public Construction Commission, said 23.5km of newly-completed embankments along the most important river in Taoyuan were constructed by adopting ecological engineering methods.

"Eco-engineering features ensuring flood control, obtaining building material from local sources and leaving water creatures' habitats intact," Kuo said.

When Nari struck northern Taiwan two years ago, flood-induced embankment failures along the 30km river destroyed bridges, disabled almost all drainage works, caused the loss of croplands and left a number of communities under water.

More than 1,000 families along the middle reaches of the river were affected by rising water. The ground floors of some buildings were flooded, which triggered a hurried evacuation. Residents reportedly did not even have time to deal with hundreds of cars that were trapped in the water. During Nari's onslaught, the number of disaster cases reported in Taoyuan County exceeded 1,100.

With a resolution to not only construct new embankments to improve flood control but also pull down illegal buildings constructed in the river's buffering zone, Taoyuan County Government later asked for NT$1.39 billion from the Cabinet.

On condition that the local authority avoid adopting conventional civil-engineering methods to build cement embankments, the commission eventually allocated NT$1.52 billion for proposed constructions.

"Bearing sustainable development in mind, it's time for us to abandon cement embankments. The eco-unfriendly and ugly design can not guarantee flood control and makes access to the water impossible," Kuo said.

One of the most challenging parts of the post-disaster rehabilitation construction is persuading dozens of residents to give up ownership of land situated in the river's buffering zones.

"Removing unnecessary constructions in the river to broaden the cross-section area of flow is the first step to prevent flooding," Kuo said.

In the last two years, 36.3ha of land was donated by residents, who helped save the government about NT$4.9 billion in compensation payouts. Meanwhile, the government claimed 3.85ha of its land in buffering zones which were illegally used by residents.

"It's a win-win strategy because the government successfully completed environmentally-friendly flood control embankments to ensure people's lives and properties were safe," Kuo said.

After completion of construction, an increase of about 15 percent in real-estate prices has been seen, Kuo said.

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