Tue, Nov 18, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Ilan River gets new lease on life

SYMBIOSIS The NT$250 million flood-control project is aimed at preserving biological diversity as well as creating an easily accessible recreational riverside area

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Reconstruction work is taking place along the Ilan River to improve resistance to floods and create an easily accessible recreational riverside area. The NT$250 million project is part of the government's effort to promote ecological engineering in public construction.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

Sitting on the new grass growing next to the Ilan River (宜蘭河), Lin Yu-chen (林妤真), a 14-year-old girl from Ilan Junior High School's fine arts class, paints a pastoral landscape in bright teal blues and bold emerald hues.

The interplay of colors in Lin's watercolor painting reflect the diversity of the riverside plants, which were grown carefully by the Ilan County Government based on concepts integrating flood control and ecological conservation.

Along the middle reaches of the 15km-long river, steep concrete embankments are being replaced by gentle slopes covered with riverside plants such as water willow (水柳), Leersia hexandra (李氏禾) and verdant grass. A scenic route along the meandering river in a 2.2km section between Ilan Bridge and Chungshan Bridge is now a haven for hikers, runners and bicycle riders.

"The river reconstruction project demonstrates that engineering within ecological constraints has helped people to live in harmony with nature," said Kuo Ching-chiang (郭清江), vice chairman of the Cabinet's Public Construction Commission.

According to Kuo, the commission has been promoting ecological engineering in public construction since last year to preserve the natural heritage and improve resistance to floods.

Ilan County Commissioner Liu Shou-cheng (劉守成) said he was satisfied with the NT$250 million flood-control construction project, which is aimed at preserving biological diversity as well as creating an easily accessible recreational riverside area.

The story began in 1997, when Premier Yu Shyi-kun, an Ilan native, served as county commissioner. Yu believed the promotion of tourism based on ecological preservation would greatly benefit the rural county. About 465,000 residents live on a broad plain covering 320km2 of land.

Having persuaded the Water Resources Agency and the Council of Agriculture's Soil and Water Conservation Bureau to adopt innovative, eco-friendly engineering methods based on concepts employed in Germany and Switzerland, the local authority turned the river into one of the finest examples of a symbiosis of ecological engineering and disaster prevention.

Yu returned to his hometown for the annual government-sponsored Ecotechnology Expo, which was held in Ilan last Saturday. The premier joined hundreds of residents, including agile youngsters and energetic senior people, on a bicycle ride along the newly-reconstructed river.

Later that evening, hundreds of Ilan residents and tourists sat on the green slopes of embankments, enjoying music performed by the Ilan Philharmonic Orchestra.

Yu said he was deeply moved by the residents' enthusiastic response, especially that of the younger people.

"It's important to make future generations aware of the advantages of eco-engineering and sustainable development," he said.

Well-designed public projects should be able to simultaneously achieve the goals of environmental protection, landscape preservation, eco-tourism and river reconstruction, he said.

Lee Chien-chuan (李健全), vice chairman of the Council of Agriculture, said the reconstruction of the river entailed 26 sub-contracts costing NT$130 million over the past two years, and has provided the public with safe access to the river.

New types of eco-friendly embankments were designed to suit the area following an investigation of its plant and animal life, as well as the physical and chemical environment.

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