Special Report 3
Activation of the Tamsui River
Incumbent since December 25 of 2006, Taipei Mayor Hau Lungbin has pushed forward the cleanup program of the Tamsui River and creation of a waterfront environment that is visually and sensually friendly. In February, 2007, a Taipei City Government's Reviving Tamsui River System Promotion Committee was formed, under which different groups were given responsibility for water quality and quantity, landscaping and recreation, as well as environmental education.
This new vision was to be transformed into New River, New Riverside, New City in the years 2011- 2014. With active efforts in water reinvigoration by the Taipei City Government and the joint participation of the general public, the quality of the river was greatly improved. The level of pollution of the Tamsui River declined from serious to medium and improvement is ongoing. The quality of the river water is now the best ever in the last three decades. The rate of user pipeline connection is 70.37% or 760 thousand households, the highest of all rivers in Taiwan. With water management measures in progress, the diversity of the fish groups has increased from 56 in 1986 to 87 in 2012. In addition, riverside themed parks featuring distinctive characteristics for design and construction are being undertaken. A vast flora garden and a riverside bikeway network were constructed to improve the riverside landscape and increase public usage.
In accordance with the Environmental Education Law, a variety of water environment educational activities have been held. The public has also participated by forming riverside patrol teams to help clean the water, reduce pollution, and promote public awareness of river ecology. With the public's active participation in environmental protection, Taipei is becoming an environment-friendly city.
Taipei City is situated downstream of the Tamsui River. The Dahan River, Keelung River (Starting from Dakeng River Confluence to the front of Shezi Island), Xindian River (Jingmei River Confluence to the Dahai River Confluence), Jingmei River (from the neighborhood of the Muzha System Interchange of the Highway and the Wenhe Bridge to the Xindian River Confluence) and the main Tamsui River (from the confluence of Xindian River and the Dahan River to the Guandu Bridge) flow through the City. Since taking office in 2006, Taipei Mayor Hau Lungbin has dedicated himself to the clean-up, reviving and activation of the rivers in Taipei.
In February, 2007, the Taipei City Government Tamsui River Management Committee was formed, under which individual groups were responsible for water quality and quantity, landscaping and recreation, as well as environmental education. The new vision for the years between 2011 and 2014 were transformed into New River, New Riverside, New City, under which 53 strategies and 295 plans were set out in the blueprint. Through diligent efforts, achievements made so far include 11 strategies and 252 plans (or an execution rate of 85.4%), bringing together a brand new look of the rivers in Taipei.
Achievements of the Activation of the Tamsui River
1. Ensuring the quality of the water source and preventing the river water from giving off a foul odor
Constructing wastewater sewage systems is the most effective way to prevent pollutants from entering the river water, which is also regarded as one of the indicators of an advanced country. In 2012, the Taipei City Government allocated a budget of NT$1.5 billion for the construction of sewage pipelines and renewal. By the end of 2012, the completion rate for main pipelines, sub pipelines and piping network was 100%, 97.13%, and 86.22%, respectively. It was calculated that pipelines were connected to 760 thousand households, at a connection rate of 70.37, the highest among all cities in Taiwan. To gain support and recognition from the public for wastewater sewage system engineering, the Taipei City Government pushed forward its program of Back Alley Beautification.
Moreover, efforts were made to improve schools, market places, hotels, MRT stations, hospitals, military stations and big communities with more than 50 households by setting up annual execution goals, which would be reviewed and improved over the years. With regard to the improvement of water quality, a diversified approach to treat the wastewater was the main objective. The wastewater collected from the pipes connected to households in Taipei were to be directed to Dihua, Neihu and Bali Wastewater Treatment Plants for treatment. In 2012, the average amount of wastewater treated reached 1.73 million tons; wastewater of nonpoint source pollution or wastewater unconnected but flowing naturally to the sewage system were treated by wastewater inception on sunny days or on-site treatment to eliminate pollution.
All these management jobs were intended to reinvigorate the river, prevent the water from giving off a bad smell and revive the waterfront. Most of the water quality in the Jinmei River and Xindian River under the city’s jurisdiction was improved to the level of slightly polluted. The pollution level of the Keelung River was gradually reduced from medium to slight. The water quality of the main Tamsui River has also been greatly improved and it is now the best ever over the past three decades.
2. No waste floating in the water, making rivers a great spot for recreation
Reducing the river pollution helps improve the water quality. Meanwhile, with the clean-up of the waste flowing on the surface of the water, the river was rid of garbage, inviting birds and fish to make a return for inhabitation. According to a survey undertaken by the Environmental Protection Agency of the Executive Yuan on the ecological system of the fishes in the Tamsui River in 2012, fish species grew from 56 in 1986 to 87 in 2012, indicating the diversity of the fish groups in the Tamsui River has remarkably increased. Between 2006 and 2011, the Taipei City Government devoted itself to the construction of the Gongguan Waterfront Park, for which a number of landscaping projects were conducted.
A deck crossing the river bank, pedestrian pavements and bikeways were built, which successfully transformed Gongguan. For years, the Government has continued its installation of six themed riverside parks with themes including ecological, wetland, cultural, historical, love, flower fields, weddings and hydro-friendliness. In 2012, Shezi Island Riverside Park featuring the theme of wetland was inaugurated and opened for use. By undertaking the above measures, the gap long existing between the urban area and the rivers has been bridged.
In addition, to enhance the view of the riverside park and increase public usage, a floral plantation project was undertaken to provide visual entertainment. Moreover, a network of bikeways with a total length of 111km was constructed and the installation of 10 bike rental sites were to be in place to provide quality rental service. In 2011 and 2012, floral plantation projects were applied to Dajia Riverside Park Guting and Machangting Park, Heshuang No. 21 Riverside Park, Yingfeng Riverside Park, Fuhe Riverside Park, Rainbow Riverside Park (on the right side of MacArthur Bridge), Dunhuang Pier and the Daonang Riverside Park. In 2012, through the joint efforts of the Taipei City and the New Taipei City governments, lighting projects were applied to 12 bridges, including Guandu Bridge, Chongyang Bridge, Taipei Bridge, Huajiang Bridge, Wanban Bridge, Huacui Bridge, Zhongzheng Bridge, Yongfu Bridge, Fuhe Bridge, Huazhong Bridge, Wanshan Bridge (New Jingmei Bridge) and Bao Bridge. The lighting of the bridges makes the night view in Taipei more charming.
3. Nurturing a Good Relationship between Nature and People, Cherishing the River Assets
In response to the implementation of the Environmental Educational Act, the TCG held several educational and entertaining activities, including hydrophilic Canoe Paddling Experience for Taipei Citizens, Sailing, the Taipei Dragon Boat Festival, and the Walk and Read of the Tamsui River Activity. With these activities, the City Government aimed to nurture a good relationship between the nature and the people of Taipei. In collaboration with the private sector, the Taipei City Government put together River Patrol Teams for the Keelung River.
This not only helps clean up the river and reduce pollution but also promotes public awareness in protecting the river. Led by teachers, school children sacrifice their weekends and time after school to take part in the activity of monitoring the water quality for rivers nearby their schools. In addition, enthusiastic parents, members of the public, volunteers, and social educational environmental protection groups were invited to join in and work together.
Expectations and Prospects for the Future
To clean up and revive a river that had been polluted for a long time was not easy because the underlying challenges were many. In addition to the efforts made by the City Government and the contributions from all sectors, we also depended on the supervision and participation of the general public. Only through unity can we really achieve the goal of reviving the Tamsui River and creating a vision of a wonderful place. It is expected that someday the Tamsui River will regain its beauty and will sustain it, like a long-standing history, everlasting and evolving. The history of the river will be carried along for generations in Taiwan.