Wetlands projects in Xinbei City (Taipei County)

by on Tuesday, 30 November 2010 7428 hits Comments
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Since the international climate change summit City Halls to Cancun Corridors was held in New Taipei City, the local government decided to give the participants of the summit unique experience on what New Taipei City was doing for environmental conservation, taking them on a guided trip through the wetlands.


The earth’s multi-functional kidneys

Since childhood we have been constantly taught by our textbooks and teachers that the protection of the environment is extremely important. The issue of environmental protection is often discussed in TV programs where environmental groups claim: “We only have one earth”. After having grown up we finally gradually begin to realize that this issue is everyone’s concern. So how can we participate in environmental protection in our lives? If you don’t know where to start, then just come and have a walk in the wetlands! Maybe you will be inspired while immersing yourself in nature.

I) Saving the wetlands: abandoning development for rebuilding

A “Wetland” is an area of land situated in a transitional zone between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. This kind of water-soaked soil is an ideal habitat for the breeding of many plants and animals, and this particular ecosystem also has an important ecological purification function. Therefore, it is commonly known as “the Earth’s kidneys”. Moreover, a wetland is not only a habitat for a great diversity of flora and fauna, but also has the functions of water conservation, water purification and microclimate regulation.

There are in fact tracts of wetlands in almost all Taiwanese coastal cities, in total there are 66,000 hectares. In the past, as the government required large numbers of industrial zones and the development of many territories in coastal areas, wetlands rapidly disappeared, which resulted in the launch of Taiwan’s first wetland protection campaign. As a consequence, through the constant efforts of environmentalists, the concept of wetland conservation gradually evolved in Taiwanese society and all levels of government.

In the case of Taipei County, there are many types of natural wetlands, which include estuaries of various coastal saline wetlands, such as tidal salt marshes, mangroves swamps, and muddy beaches. These wetlands are where freshwater and seawater mix. Consequently, now the government is making more efforts to promote the creation of artificial wetlands.

These wetlands are not only small sewage disposal sites, but also “museums” of living ecosystems. For example, Chinshui wetland (清水溼地) located at rural township “Jinshan” (金山), has the largest wetland of freshwater in the northern coast of Taipei County, which is the first stop for migratory birds flying south, and the last stop back to the north through the Pacific Ocean. It is a major habitat for migratory birds which attracts every year more than 200 bird species of waterfowl to rest in this place, including such rare birds as the black-faced spoonbill, Chinese Egret and red-crowned crane. Furthermore, the forested Antlers river artificial wetland, in addition to serving the vital function of purifying the Tahan River (漢溪), this secondary forest is also the habitat of many birds such as herons and doves. The wetland of “Bali” (八里) in Taipei County, with its inter-tidal coastal wetlands has become the most important breeding place of a rare viviparous plant named Kandelia obovata.


II) Reeducation: The need for strengthening of laws and regulations.

In recent years, both the government and non-governmental organizations have stated their aim to develop eco-tourism and to promote environmental education to encourage communities to participate in wetland conservation activities. Lai Rong-xiao (賴榮孝) is working on the long term restoration of the Antlers River Wetlands, and points out that in the past the most important objective of the construction of wetlands by the government was to provide water purification to cities, so there was greater emphasis on the construction of infrastructure. However, in recent years there has been more emphasis on the function of the biodiversity habitat of the wetlands and the promotion of the wetlands education. But according to Lai Rongxiao, some people do not respect laws and regulations: for instance, they go to the wetlands to catch fishes or crabs and dump garbage in the wetlands, which causes damage to the wetland ecosystem. It seems that Taiwan’s current wetlands education still needs improvement, as it reflects the lack of Taiwan’s regulations and management deficiencies.

Nowadays, the national wetlands are not exclusively managed by one department: the Council of Agriculture of Executive Yuan is responsible for Wildlife Conservation Areas; the Water Resource Agency of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) and the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) subsidize the construction of artificial wetlands; and the National Science Council conducts wetlands monitoring. Also, some wetlands are in National Scenic Areas under the supervision of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau.

From the development and the restoration of wetlands, our views of the value and importance of the natural environment has changed dramatically. This is especially due to climate change which has resulted in disastrous events, causing people to consider the protection of the environment to be even more important than economic development. However, the restoration of wetlands is not a short term issue but needs long-term plans and huge investment. This is why our concern for wetlands conservation is not going to be reduced to a vague environmental slogan, but will become a real sustainable environmental policy.

Photo by C. Chuang


eRenlai has long been concerned with wetlands in Taipei and previously conducted a series of interviews on the subject:
Last modified on Thursday, 15 May 2014 16:32
Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋)


Former Governor of Taipei County (2005-2010)

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