Tue, Dec 21, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Concrete use threatens old water channels

HISTORIC PATHWAYS Six irrigation channels in Yangminshan Park were built more than a century ago, but poorly planned drainage construction work has ruined three

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Stone irrigation channels in the Bayan area of the Yangmingshan National Park, which have been used by local farmers for generations to provide water for their crops, are shown in the photo above. These channels have been put at risk by the construction of concrete drains to divert some of the water, as shown in the photo below. Conservationists and environmentalists have complained about the use of concrete, which they say threatens the preservation of the old channels.

PHOTO COURTESY OF YEH PIN-YU, SOCIETY OF NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY

Old stone irrigation channels in Yangmingshan National Park used by generations of local residents are under threat from ill-conceived drainage plans, according to environmentalists and officials.

Yeh Pin-yu (葉品妤), secretary-general of the Society of Nature Photography (自然與生態攝影學會), told the Taipei Times yesterday that six old irrigation channels constructed with natural stones were located in the Bayan area of Jinshan Township.

The six channels are near Chungho Village, which sits beside the Yang-jin Highway and is home to dozens of villagers.

According to Yeh, some residents said such ancient irrigation channels, which deliver river water to low-lying fields, were built more than 100 years ago, before Japan colonized Taiwan at the end of the 19th century.

But three of the channels have now been marred by the additions of cement ditches to divert water from the channels. The first concrete drains were erected more than a year ago. The third was recently completed.

On Sunday, researchers, environmentalists and officials from the Yangmingshan National Park Administration inspected the construction site, where they saw that the cement had already set.

"We don't understand why the government did not consider ecological conservation and cultural preservation," Yeh said.

She said that such historic treasures deserve to be preserved and her society has worked with many other groups and ecological experts in a bid to halt the construction.

"Farming families there still keep traditional way of life, Bayan Area looks more natural and quiet compared to other scenic spots in the national park," Yeh said.

Activists said that financial support from the park's administration and Jinshan Township Office has been spent arbitrarily on building roads and cement escape canals without considering ecological conservation.

The construction of two sections of cement escape canals was co-financed by the Jinshan Township Office and the park administration. Yangmingshan National Park Headquarters Secretary Chan Te-shu (詹德樞) said yesterday that the administration had found that some inappropriate engineering methods were used in the construction of the drains.

"We will soon invite experts to review the construction and come up with remedial measures," Chan said.

According to Chan, farmers in the area had asked for the drainage construction. Most of them used to make their living as rice farmers but now concentrate on growing flowers because they are more profitable.

"So they said their fields do not need so much water from the irrigation channels. That's why they asked the local township office to finance the drainage construc-tion," Chan said.

Chan said the park administration gave the township office NT$1.5 million this year for construction projects to beautify the landscape. The drainage canal, which cost about NT$100,000, was one such project. However, the poor quality of the construction disappointed not only conservationists but also park officials.

Chan said that workshops for construction designers and engineers will be held next year to avoid similar tragedies.

"If they cannot design their projects based on ecological concerns, we won't support any construction inside the park," Chan said.

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