千塘之鄉

——桃園陂塘的美麗與哀愁
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2012 / 9月

文‧李珊 圖‧林格立


隨著飛機緩緩降落桃園中正機場,映入眼簾的是一面面閃閃發亮的鏡子,這片星羅棋布在桃園台地上的陂塘(即埤塘),是見證先民把荒漠變良田的水利工程傑作,其面積之大、密度之高,世界罕見。

三十年來因為都市和工商發展,曾達上萬口的桃園陂塘一口口被填平,目前僅剩2,800口,近來在保護濕地潮流和被文化部門列入「世界文化遺產潛力點」的二大保護傘下,才逐漸受到重視。


提到桃園,你的印象為何?工廠林立,人口密集,航空城,還是阡陌縱橫的田園風光?

很多人不知道桃園其實擁有獨樹一幟的田園風光。不像嘉南和蘭陽平原平坦開闊,桃園稻田散布在起伏的台地上,因此穿梭在淙淙圳路旁常有意外驚喜:錯落在田間的典雅祠堂,引人發思古幽情;巷弄中瞥見紅磚老屋,大樹下有人在浣衣池邊洗衣;行到高處還有波光粼粼的陂塘,在炎炎夏日吹起陣陣涼風。

和台灣其他稻田多半引溪流或水庫水源灌溉不同,桃園台地的稻田目前仍依賴七百多口陂塘灌溉,這些陂塘分別被桃園大圳和石門大圳串成二個如蜘蛛網般的灌溉系統,澆灌大園、蘆竹、八德、楊梅、新屋等十多個鄉鎮的水稻田。

陂塘溯源

打開地圖,桃園有許多和陂塘有關的地名如「新埤」、「埤寮」、「崙埤」。跑遍台灣各地溪流溝渠做田野調查的台大環工系教授張文亮解釋,以前池塘看守的緊,需要蓋草寮派人輪流監看,因此叫「埤寮」;「新埤」是指新挖的蓄水池,表示池塘是陸續開鑿的;「崙埤」則是指在凸起地形中所建的陂塘。

然而三百多年前,廣大的桃園台地上一片荒蕪,並無任何池塘,會發展出如今規模,和桃園的地理環境有關。

桃園原本是由大漢溪(古石門溪)沖積而成的沖積扇,大漢溪夾著豐沛水源自石門山一路川流入海。三萬年前台北因斷層陷落200公尺,襲奪了大漢溪,使大漢溪水往北轉向淡水河出海,以致下游的二條溪流——觀音溪、大堀溪成為「斷頭河」;又短又小的斷頭河,大雨時溪水氾濫,枯水期中水露石出,幾乎乾涸,根本無法灌溉。

台地雖有湧泉,但水量也不足以灌溉,於是在清朝乾隆年間有人提議挖地成池來蓄積雨水。

據《淡水廳誌》記載,最早的埤圳系統在今八德霄裡一帶,由漢人與平埔族共同開闢,包括4口陂塘和圳道,灌溉6 個庄的農田,完成後水權由原住民佃戶分配6 成,漢人佃戶分配4成。

張文亮表示,桃園台地西高東低,先民極有智慧地依著地勢挖鑿,先在高處建陂,讓陂塘的水自然下滲,在低處又設池塘蓄水,讓水有充分的時間留在缺水的桃園台地上,陸續開鑿了一百五十多口,「實在是一件優美的水利藝術傑作。」

智慧水利系統

日據時代桃園發生大旱災,日本政府決定於石門開鑿取水口,把被淡水河搶走的大漢溪水引回來,興建「桃園大圳」,又把大小不一的二千多口陂塘「化零為整」成二百多個來調整灌溉水量。

桃園大圳由水利工程師八田與一設計、監督施工,工程在1928年完成後,整個北桃園台地2萬公頃土地全數變成水稻耕作區。八田與一也因興建桃園大圳的表現傑出,還沒完工就被長官調派去興建工程更艱鉅的嘉南大圳和烏山頭水庫。

光復後,國民政府於1947年興建「光復圳」,把桃園大圳的灌溉區向西南延伸,石門水庫完工後,1963年政府又在桃園大圳以南興建「石門大圳」,將南桃園台地的四百多口陂塘和石門水庫串連起來。

翻開桃園及石門農田水利會的灌區圖,分處北南的桃園大圳(及光復圳)、石門大圳主幹由東向西貫穿桃園台地,各支線又沿著主幹向北部地勢較低地區分出綿密網路,連接各大小陂塘,相當壯觀。此一灌溉系統水源一半為石門水庫的蓄水、一半為雨水;在民國70年代前造就了桃園成為大台北米倉。

經過日據時代整併,桃園大圳串連的陂塘每口面積平均7公頃、深度4~ 6公尺,285口的蓄水量達3,400萬噸,相當於石門水庫蓄水量的1/3,石門大圳串連的407口蓄水量則有1,053萬噸。

「陂塘利用自然重力把水送到各個灌區,配合地勢,過程中不需要透過馬達抽水或像荷蘭用水車輸水等動力,是很值得保存的人工智慧,」推動陂塘列入國內世界文化遺產潛力點的文化大學景觀系教授郭瓊瑩指出。

一口陂塘一個家族故事

「陂塘不只具有灌溉功能,一口陂塘還代表一個生產、生活、生態的系統。」2003年起即開始研究桃園陂塘的中原大學室內設計系教授陳其澎說,台灣先民跨過黑水溝,為了在貧瘠、風大、缺水的異鄉生存,往往會動員家族或社區合力開鑿水塘,水利大興後,旱地變良田,生活逐漸富裕,接著蓋祠堂、建廟宇,落地生根,從陂塘還可看到家族的興衰、族群文化、歷史意涵等多元面向。

例如桃園新屋鄉著名的范姜古厝和附近的新屋埤等多口陂塘,就是探索客家庄開發史的活素材。

清初乾隆年間,范姜家族從廣東惠州府渡海來台,當時台北已為漳、泉人占據,只得選擇桃園尚未被發現的荒地開墾。取得墾照後,逐步從海邊向內地開拓廣大土地,經過一百多年的努力,荒野終於變田園,而且吸引了不少拓荒者遷入。

開墾有成的范姜族人於咸豐年間大興土木,合建了一座宏偉祠堂,轟動鄉里,鄉民們呼朋引伴「來去看新屋」。久而久之,新屋便成為當地的地名,沿用到今天。

陂塘也是許多桃園人難忘的童年記憶。兒童文學作家馮輝岳成長於桃園八德鄉,陂塘的風景和蟲魚鳥獸常是他文章中的主角,例如描寫爸爸帶著他在起霧的早晨漫步在湖邊小徑的情景:「一條白色小船,孤單的停在岸邊,船的主人呢?周遭靜靜的,藍色的湖水漾起淺淺的波紋,春天的湖看起來有些寂寞……。」

八德水利會工作站站長邱顯達對兒時在陂塘抓魚、破埤(橫渡陂塘)、打水仗的情景念念不忘,農曆過年前的「澇埤」活動更是一年一度的盛事。

原來,冬天來臨時,為了清理陂塘和避免魚兒凍死,陂塘主人會將池水逐漸放乾,等到池底見天,留下中間一圈較深的水,就開始「澇埤」:大人們先用網子打撈陂塘魚群,接著婦女和小孩帶著容器把還沒撈起的小魚小蝦蟹一一撈起入袋,這種一撈就滿溢整個瓢子的歡樂,和往後幾天河鮮大餐的享受,是孩子們一年中最期待的時節。

從輝煌到黯淡

田野生活的美好終究不敵都市和工商發展的誘因。石門水庫完工之後,陂塘的灌溉功能逐漸被取代,加上民國70年代工廠紛紛搬來桃園,土地需求殷切下,農田減少、陂塘消失也成了不可逆的趨勢。

民國60年代以後,不管是興建桃園機場,安置眷村居民、都市計畫把陂塘周圍的農地改為建地、興建國中小、醫院、工業區、政府機構等都是以填掉陂塘為手段。再者,工業區的污染使陂塘水質飽受蹂躪、農田廢耕,陂塘面積從9,000公頃減少到2,900公頃。

目前桃園和石門水利會擁有的七百多口陂塘(公池)除了負責灌溉,水利會也出租給民眾養殖魚蝦,其他的2,000口陂塘又分為家族擁有的「母池」和個人擁有的「子池」,多半做為養殖、釣蝦場或住家的風水池。近年因陂塘再生的風潮,地方政府和水利會合作把若干陂塘整修建設為休閒觀光景點,例如位於高鐵桃園站附近的青塘園,以及位於八德市、以生態工法打造的八德陂塘自然生態公園。

野生動植物的天堂

此外,許多無人看管的「野池」,則演化為生態資源的寶地和環保團體生態教育的據點。

位於楊梅高榮里的731號陂塘,面積1.1公頃,原本是台灣省自來水公司為了戰時石門水庫萬一被破壞,緊急替補供水而開挖的儲水陂塘。後來因為戰備陂塘多年未派上用場,蓄水閘門失修,失去大量蓄水功能,逐漸演替成淺水草澤濕地,意外成為野生動植物的快樂天堂。

731號池經過台北市立動物園團隊長期調查,發現許多珍稀物種棲息其間,例如台北赤蛙、柴棺龜、鉛色水蛇等保育類野生動物。其中,蜻蜓與豆娘就有34種,占台灣所有種數的1/4;又如稀有的雙截蜻蜓,更是台灣已知的最大族群。731號池今年初已被農委會劃為野生動物保護區,是台灣面積最小的野生動物保護區。

荒野保護協會桃園分會多年來持續發動志工管理維護陂塘。「無人管理的野池陸化得很快,」桃園分會會長張演祺說,先驅物種李氏禾、水生黍如果不移除,就會一寸寸占據陂塘水域,而外來種魚類泰國鱧、吳郭魚非常強勢,也需藉人力清除,以保護本土魚種的生存空間。

據野鳥協會統計,桃園陂塘的鳥類資源非常豐富,人為干擾愈小的生態愈豐富,蘆竹鄉的大竹二支圳18號池面積僅9.3公頃,冬季候鳥就有22種、數量五百多隻。

陂塘既是水生動植物賴以為生的棲地,更是人類面對極端氣候、旱澇不均的21世紀必須刻意保留的救命池。暴雨來襲時埤圳系統有如海綿,吸納雨水到地下;到了枯水期則可有救命地下水使用。

中原大學教授陳其澎感嘆,桃園台地因地形較高,應比其他縣市較不受水患侵襲,但今年6月11日豪雨卻讓桃園淹水面積高達900公頃,成為全台災情最嚴重的縣市之一,淹水盈尺的開南大學就是陂塘被填土開發的區域。

「廢溜」危機再現

陳其澎表示,目前桃園所有陂塘都已被內政部指定為「國家級濕地」,但由於不是指定個別陂塘,地主或建商仍有上下其手改變地目的機會。尤其近來《濕地法》加速審議,地方人士希望搶在法案通過前「廢溜」(廢棄填平),令人憂心。

自2010年《農村再生條例》通過後,農地的1/10可轉為建地,加上0.25公頃以下的陂塘不列入《濕地法》保護,也就是說,一口0.25公頃(750坪)的陂塘「廢溜」改為農地後,即可拿到75坪的建地,小面積陂塘處境堪危。

再者,《農村再生條例》容許地主將分散各地的土地集中起來核算建地面積,例如某地主擁有分散於桃園、新竹的5塊地共3公頃,即可取得3分地(900坪)建地,由於桃園陂塘多位在區位較佳地段,會導致建地大量集中在桃園的現象。

「陂塘的價值是很深遠的,」陳其澎呼籲,陂塘不是只能公園化,陂塘的活化再生應有更多想像,讓陂塘和桃園人生活緊密結合。

2007年陳其澎曾規劃新屋鄉「水巷桃源」,以桃園大圳12支圳為軸串連陂塘、范姜古厝,成為一條探訪客家庄和親水休憩廊道,較可惜的是,公部門執行計畫時礙於民眾的安全疑慮,並未依其規劃將加蓋水圳完全打開,使社區再造的效果有限。

目前桃園各鄉鎮以國小為中心、1公里為半徑,幾乎每個國小附近都有一個以上的陂塘,校方與老師若能善用陂塘資源,就是最好的生態環境教育,還可進一步讓社區參與。

「桃園的亮點就在陂塘,」因研究陂塘而愛上陂塘的陳其澎,不但房子買在陂塘邊,經常帶著孩子來此散步,每天騎自行車上班還規劃不同的水圳路線,享受多樣的田園景致。

他深信,桃園的城鄉發展若能以埤圳為思考,不論是朝歷史文化、環境教育或觀光休閒整合,桃園人的生活將可大大改觀,桃園也將成為更健康永續的城市。

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EN

The Land of 1,000 Ponds—Taoyuan’s Irrigation Ponds Facing Crisis

Coral Lee /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Scott Williams

Jets slowly descend into Tao­yuan International Airport, offering passengers fleeting glimpses of flickering mirror-like ponds on the ground below. The ponds, which dot the entire Tao­yuan Tableland, are irrigation works that were built by our ancestors as they carved farmland from the wilderness. Closely packed over a vast stretch of the plateau, these works give Tao­yuan a landscape like few other places on Earth.

Over the last 30 years, more than 10,000 of Tao­yuan’s ­irrigation ponds have been filled in to support urban and commercial development. Only 2,800 remain, slowly gaining the attention and care of the public under the twin umbrellas of wetlands conservation and a campaign to include them on the World Heritage register.


What does the mention of Tao­yuan bring to mind? Factories? Dense population? The international airport? Patchwork fields?

Few people realize that Tao­yuan has its own unique rural scenery. Its undulating plateau, so different from the broad, flat Jia­nan and Lan­yang Plains, is dotted with rice paddies. Surprises are frequent when you travel its canal-lined roads. An elegant ancestral hall in the middle of a field might stir thoughts of the distant past. You may catch a glimpse of an old brick building standing beside a byway, or of someone laundering clothes in a pool under a large tree. At higher elevations, you’ll find irrigation ponds shimmering in cool breezes on hot summer days.

While rice paddies elsewhere in Taiwan get their water from streams or irrigation works linked to large reservoirs, those on the Tao­yuan Tableland still rely on 700-some irrigation ponds. Linked to the Tao­yuan and Shi­men Canals to form a web-like irrigation system, these ponds provide the water for the paddies in a dozen-odd townships, including Da­yuan, Lu­zhu, ­Bade, Yang­mei, and ­Xinwu.

Tracing the source

But 300-odd years ago, the vast Tao­yuan Tableland was a wilderness without a single pond. The plateau’s topography is what allowed the pond system to grow to its present scale.

Much of Taoyuan is, effectively, the alluvial fan of the Da­han River (formerly known as the Shi­men River), which once flowed from Mt. Shi­men straight to the sea. But 30,000 years ago a tectonic shift caused the Tai­pei area to abruptly lose 200 meters of elevation. This drew the Da­han River northward, where it was captured by the Dan­shui River system. As a consequence, two downstream rivers—the Guan­yin River and the ­Daku River—lost their head­waters and became short “beheaded streams.” Because these beheaded streams are almost completely without water in the dry season and often flood during heavy rains, they are useless for irrigation.

Though the plateau has springs, they don’t carry enough water for irrigation. The idea of digging pools to store rainwater emerged during the reign of Emperor Qian­long (1736–1795) in the Qing Dynasty.

According to official annals, the earliest of the irrigation pond systems was located in what is now the ­Xiaoli area of ­Bade City. Built by ethnic Chinese and lowland Aborigines, the system included four ponds and irrigation channels providing water to the fields of six property owners. The completed system delivered 60% of its water to Aboriginal tenant farmers, and 40% to ethnic Chinese tenant farmers.

Chang Wen-liang, a professor with the Department of Bio­environ­mental Systems Engineering at National Taiwan University, says that our ancestors made very intelligent use of the Tao­yuan Tableland’s topography—high in the west, low in the east—building ponds at higher elevations and allowing gravity to draw the water downhill. They also dug storage ponds at lower elevations, eventually building more than 150 ponds in the area. “It was a beautiful piece of irrigation work,” says Chang.

Intelligent water systems

Following a severe drought during the Japanese era, the Japanese government built intakes at Shi­men to draw water from the Da­han River, dug the Tao­yuan Canal as a major irrigation channel, and regularized irrigation volumes by consolidating more than 2,000 of the county’s scattered, variously sized ponds into just 200-some.

Yo­ichi ­Hatta, a Japanese hydraulic engineer, designed and oversaw the construction of the Tao­yuan Canal. Hatta did such excellent work on the project that his commanding officer reassigned him before its completion, putting him in charge of the even more challenging Jia­nan Canal and Wu­shan­tou Reservoir project. When completed in 1928, the Tao­yuan Canal provided enough water to support the conversion into rice paddies of 20,000 hectares of land in the northern part of the plateau.

Following Taiwan’s retrocession, the ROC government in 1947 began work on the ­Guangfu Canal, extending the Tao­yuan Canal irrigation district to the southwest. After completing the Shi­men Reservoir, the government went on to build the Shi­men Canal to the south of the Tao­yuan Canal in 1963, linking more than 400 irrigation ponds in the southern part of the county to the reservoir.

The irrigation maps put out by Tao­yuan’s various irrigation associations show that the main arteries of the Tao­yuan, ­Guangfu, and Shi­men Canals traverse the plateau from east to west, with transverses flowing northwards from the main channels into lower-elevation land, and then spreading out into a dense network connecting variously sized ponds. Roughly half of the water in the irrigation system is rainwater. The other half comes from the Shi­men Reservoir. The system made Tao­yuan the “rice basket” of northern Taiwan until the 1980s.

“The pond systems use gravity to transport water to each of the irrigation districts,” says Monica Kuo, a professor of landscape architecture at Chinese Culture University who is promoting the inclusion of the irrigation works on the World Heritage register. “They follow the land. The process doesn’t require pumps or water­wheels of the sort they use to move water in the Netherlands. The ponds are intelligent manmade artifacts worth preserving.”

A family’s story

“The ponds don’t only provide irrigation. Each pond is a living, productive ecosystem,” says Chen Chie-peng, a professor with the Department of Interior Design at Chung Yuan Christian University. Chen, who began studying Tao­yuan’s ponds in 2003, says that Taiwan’s early residents organized families and communities to dig the irrigation channels they needed to survive on the dry, windy plateau. The completed irrigation works turned previously barren land into fertile fields that allowed for more prosperous lives, the construction of temples, and the putting down of roots. The ponds chart the rise and fall of families, reveal aspects of ethnic cultures, and have historical implications.

For example, the Fan­jiang Ancestral Hall and nearby ­Xinwu Pond in Tao­yuan’s ­Xinwu Township are living reminders of the development of a Hakka farmstead.

The Fan­jiang clan came to Taiwan from Hui­zhou, Guangdong Province during the Emperor Qian­long’s reign. In those days, northern Taiwan was dominated by immigrants from Fu­jian Province, obliging the Fan­jiangs to settle in the wilds of Tao­yuan. After receiving permission to clear and cultivate land, they worked their way inland from the coast, gradually adding to their holdings. More than 100 years of hard labor converted wilderness into fertile fields, attracting other pioneers.

When the Fan­jiang clan completed their magnificent ancestral hall in 1855, they caused a sensation in the township. Residents brought their friends to “come see the new building.” Over time, the area even came to be called “new building” (“­xinwu”), a name it bears to the present day.

The ponds are indelibly imprinted upon the childhood memories of many Tao­yuan natives.

Qiu ­Xianda, head of the Irrigation Association’s Bade office, will never forget the fishing, pond crossing, and water fights he enjoyed as a boy. And he fondly recalls the annual “scooping the pond” festivities held prior to the Lunar New Year.

He explains that as winter approached, pond owners would let their ponds go almost dry. When water remained only in the deeper area at the center, locals would begin “scooping the pond.” Men would net the larger fish, then the women and children would catch any small fish, shrimp and crabs the men had missed and toss them into bags. The idea was to prevent them from dying from the cold in the pond. The kids had a great time, and loved the big meals that followed, making it one of the most anticipated events of the year.

From resplendent to dilapidated

But the joys of the agrarian lifestyle couldn’t compete with the attractions of city life and the prospect of industrial and commercial development. After the completion of the Shi­men Reservoir, the ponds became superfluous. In the 1980s, factories began moving to Tao­yuan as well. As the demand for land rose, farms shrank and ponds disappeared.

Since the 1970s, a myriad of factors have contributed to the filling in of ponds, from the construction of the airport and the resettlement of military dependents to urban planning measures that rezoned nearby land and built schools, hospitals, industrial parks, and government offices. Worse, industrial runoff has polluted many of the remaining ponds and caused farmers to let their land go idle. As a result, Taoyuan’s irrigation ponds now cover just 2,900 hectares, down from 9,000 at their peak.

Today, the Tao­yuan and Shi­men Irrigation Associations control 700-some ponds. In addition to managing irrigation, the associations also rent ponds to aquaculturalists who use them to raise fish and shrimp. The other 2,000-odd ponds are owned either by clans or individuals. Most of these are used for aquaculture, shrimp fishing, or adjustments to the feng­shui of personal residences. In recent years, local governments and irrigation associations have responded to the burgeoning interest in the ponds by sprucing some of them up for use as recreation areas. ­Zhongli City’s Qing­tan Park and Bade City’s Tao­yuan Bade Eco Pond Park are cases in point.

But there are also many “wild” ponds. Largely uncared for, these have evolved into ecological treasures and educational resources.

Pond 731 in Yang­mei’s Gao­rong ward is one such. Just 1.1 hectares in area, it was originally dug by the Taiwan Water Corporation to provide water in the event of the failure of the Shi­men Reservoir. After many years of maintaining the pond without ever putting it to use, the TWC allowed the sluice gate to fall into disrepair. With that, the pond ceased to function as a water-storage pool and, over time, evolved into a shallow marsh that has become home to numerous wild animals and plants.

An eco-paradise

When a team from the Tai­pei Zoo carried out a long-term study of Pond 731, it found many rare and protected species living there, including the Tai­pei frog, the yellow pond turtle, and the plumbeous water snake. The team also found 34 species of dragon- and damselflies, a figure that amounts to a quarter of the species in Taiwan, as well as the largest collection of pied paddy skimmers seen in Taiwan.

Designated a conservation area by the Council of Agriculture in early 2012, the pond is now Taiwan’s smallest wildlife preserve.

The Tao­yuan branch of the Society of Wilderness has been organizing volunteers to help maintain the ponds for years. “Neglected ‘wild’ ponds become marshy very quickly,” says ­Zhang ­Yanqi, head of SoW’s Tao­yuan office. He explains that pioneer species such as swamp rice grass and swamp panic often colonize the ponds, and that invasive fish species such as the common snakehead and tilapia are very persistent as well. If the ponds are to provide living space for indigenous species, people must make the effort to keep them free of invasive species.

In addition to providing homes to plants and animals, the ponds are also likely to benefit human beings in this era of extreme climatic events. When torrential rains fall, pond systems act like a sponge, soaking up rainwater and channeling it underground. During droughts, that same ground­water can be a lifesaver.

Chen Chie-peng notes that even though the plateau should be less prone to floods than low-lying ground, the torrential rains of June 11, 2012 flooded some 900 hectares in Tao­yuan. In fact, Tao­yuan was one of the counties and municipalities that suffered the worst flooding from the storm. Kai­nan University, where the floodwater stood a foot deep, is built on one of the areas where irrigation ponds were filled in to make way for ­development.

Crisis

Chen says that Tao­yuan’s irrigation ponds have been collectively designated “national wetlands” by the Ministry of the Interior. But since they have not been individually designated, owners and property developers still have opportunities to manipu­late their zoning.

Worryingly, while the legislature has speeded up its scrutiny of the proposed Wetlands Act, some landowners are eager to fill in “redundant” ponds before the act takes effect. Furthemore, the Rural Rejuvenation Act passed in 2010 allows 10% of rural land to be rezoned for development, and the pending Wetlands Act, in its current form, fails to designate ponds under 2,500 square meters in area for conservation. What this means is that a property owner who fills in a 2,500-square-meter pond can develop 250 square meters of that land. This situation is placing small ponds in jeopardy.

The Rural Rejuvenation Act also permits property owners to lump scattered holdings together to calculate their area. For example, an owner with five pieces of land totaling three hectares distributed across Tao­yuan and Hsin­chu is permitted to develop any 10% (about 3,000 square meters) of that total. As many of Tao­yuan’s irrigation ponds are in locations that are attractive to developers, this is likely to result in the concentration of large amounts of new development in Tao­yuan.

“Irrigation ponds have a significant, lasting value,” says Chen, who argues that we can do more than turn them into parks. He urges us to set our imaginations to work on rejuvenating the ponds, to seek ways to integrate them with everyday life in Taoyuan.

In 2007, Chen planned a “tour itinerary” for ­Xinwu Township, connecting 12 secondary canals in the Tao­yuan Canal system, a number of ponds, and the Fan­jiang Ancestral Hall into a recreation and tourism corridor. Unfortunately, the government department implementing the plan had concerns about public safety. By choosing not to open up all of the canals designated by the plan, it limited the effectiveness of the community reconstruction program.

Currently, nearly every primary school in Tao­yuan’s many townships stands within one kilometer of an irrigation pond. If Taoyuan’s teachers were able to exploit their local pond resources, which are excellent tools for ecological education, the ponds would become more relevant to their communities.

“The ponds are Tao­yuan’s bright spots,” says Chen, whose study of the ponds has taught him to love them. He even bought a home next to one, and often takes his child for walks around it. Chen spends his daily bicycle commute planning new and different canal routes highlighting the area’s diverse agricultural scenery.

Chen says that the ponds and canals integrate local history and culture with environmental education and sightseeing potential. If factored into urban planning and rural development programs, he believes they have the potential to change Tao­yuan’s way of life and make the county a healthier and more sustainable place.

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