With 40 years of service at the Central Weather Bureau and a doctorate from National Taiwan University’s department of atmospheric sciences, 70-year-old Chen Cheng-kai (陳正改) is not only a volunteer guide in the nation’s first-ever natural environment conservation park at Guizikeng (貴子坑) in Taipei’s Beitou District (北投), but also voluntarily patrols the mountains for illegal buildings.
Chen said that due to the area being covered by a landslide as a result of Typhoon Vera in July 1977, the park underwent a series of land conservation projects after 1981, with the city government calling for volunteers.
Chen said he was aware of the importance of nature conservation from his previous work, but said that it was also important to make the public aware, adding that this was the reason he would continue working as a park volunteer, despite retiring from the weather bureau three years ago.
Educating the public on environmental conservation is very important, Chen said, adding that after typhoon Vera, most county and city governments asked for teams of volunteers to promote conservation.
Using his professional knowledge of the weather — gained from more than 20 years of work at the weather bureau — Chen uses easy-to-understand examples coupled with statistical data to explain the importance of environmental conservation to visitors at the park.
Chen also leads groups of visitors to nearby areas to observe nature and weather patterns, stressing the importance of conservation to a nation like Taiwan.
Pointing to Guizikeng as an example, Chen said that as it produced high-quality quartz sand and kaolinite, both used as materials for production of china and glass, the area saw a large amount of mining, causing it to be vulnerable to landslides triggered by typhoon Vera.
Chen said that natural disasters after recent typhoons, especially Typhoon Morakot in 2009, were due to land over-development and insufficient land conservation.
Chen is also a member of the volunteer patrols in mountains areas, and his efforts have prevented problems that could have caused potential landslides around Taipei.
Chen said that while hiking once in Taipei’s Tianmu (天母) area, he saw a group of sheet-metal houses in the mountains.
The houses were grouped together, rather than being spread out over a large area, and it was clear that the houses had not been authorized by the government, he said.
If there was a landslide in the area, the houses would be swept away immediately, he said, adding that he called the city government’s public works department and relayed the information.
The buildings were torn down after the department sent a surveyor to the area, with the buildings’ owner receiving a large fine, Chen said.