Starting in April 22 next year, a clean air zone will be established in Chiayi County’s largest wetland area. Vehicles will be prohibited from entering the designated zone, the county government announced yesterday.
Chiayi County Commissioner Helen Chang (張花冠) said the government decided to establish the zone because the Aogu Wetlands (鰲鼓溼地), located in the county’s Dongshih Township (東石), were deemed an important habitat for the nation’s wild bird population by several international associations.
The move is also meant to promote sustainable wildlife conservation and environmental education while developing recreation.
The Aogu Wetlands cover 1,470 hectares, a 665-hectare part of which was designated as a wildlife conservation sanctuary by the Council of Agriculture (COA) in 2009.
The council said the wetlands used to be covered by water during the Dutch Formosa and Spanish Formosa periods (about 350 years ago). They then gradually transformed into sandbanks and lagoons during the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1912). During the Japanese Colonial period, water banks were erected to prevent floods in the area and the land was then used for sugar cane plantations in 1964 after the soil was desalinized.
However, the flourishing aquaculture industry along Taiwan’s west coast in the 1980s caused the area to revert into wetlands because of land subsidence, unexpectedly attracting many migrating birds to inhabit the wetland as a relay destination in their migratory journeys, the council added.
Ecological surveys undertaken in the park showed that 52 families and 243 species of birds have been seen in the area, accounting for 43 percent of the total species of birds found in Taiwan, the council’s Forestry Bureau said, adding that rare or protected species such as the black-winged kite, the little tern and the black-faced spoonbill have also been spotted in the park area.
The council said a 0.9km wooden trail and 8 platforms are being constructed in the park for visitors to be well-positioned for bird watching. A 21.5km bicycle trail and a 1km walking trail are also being built in the park.
Because the park’s basic infrastructure is still under construction, it is only expected to open to the public next year, it added.