Sun, Oct 05, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Locals restore, guard ecosystem

TRICKLE UP:A New Taipei City official praised three groups for reviving three local waterways with volunteer anti-poaching and pollution patrols

By Lee Ya-wen  /  Staff reporter

Volunteers collect litter from the Balian River in New Taipei City’s Sanjhih District on Thursday.

Photo: Lee Ya-wen, Taipei Times

In a bid to replenish the rich biodiversity along Balian Creek (八連溪) in New Taipei City’s Sanjhih District (三芝), residents formed a patrol to thwart illegal poaching and pollution in the area. Eight years later, their efforts have yielded remarkable results, restoring a range of fish and crab species to the creek habitat, a New Taipei City official said.

The creek, which originates in a catchment basin in the Datun Mountains (大屯), flows through the district and spans more than 10km.

Patrol founder Cheng Kuo-hsien (鄭國賢), 64, said that the restoration of clean water and the rich ecology in the creek and its surroundings have brought back childhood memories for many residents. The creek used to boast an abundance of shrimp, crabs and fish, and children often swam in it to cool off, he said.

However, the environment was damaged over time by household wastewater, littering, construction projects and poaching, he said. As a result, the water quality deteriorated, native flora diminished and the creek in which fish once thrived became littered with dead pigs, Cheng said.

Looking to save the creek from ruin, Cheng put together the patrol in 2007, after his retirement.

To effectively monitor the area, he divided the creek into four sections and assigned each to different volunteers, who worked in shifts late into the night to quell poaching.

Describing the task as one that “made enemies” for the patrol, Cheng said he once received a death threat because of his preservation efforts.

“A man catching crabs with a bamboo basket verbally attacked me with a barrage of offensive comments and said that he would have me killed,” Cheng said.

Undeterred, Cheng continued patrolling, saying that the primary goal of staking out the waterway is to raise awareness for conservation.

“We are trying avoid a scenario in which our future generations can learn about fish and crabs only at an aquarium,” he said.

The patrol is one of three in the district, with similar outfits policing the Datun Creek (大屯溪) and Dakeng River (大坑溪).

Huang Chia-wen (黃嘉文), head of the New Taipei City Agriculture Department’s Forestry Division, said there are 53 rivers and creeks in the municipality where fish are safeguarded by cordons along the waterways at designated times.

People who breach the blocked areas will be fined, he added.

Thanks to the hard work of local patrols, the populations of fish species native to the three streams, such as the Taiwan shovel-jaw carp (Onychostoma barbatulum), the Formosan pale chub (Opsariichthys evolans) and groupers have risen significantly over the past eight years, Huang said.

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