The reemergence of Taichung's famed Liuchuan Canal
Words by Li Cheng-ching, Lin Wei-chieh Translated by Anna Yang
Photos provided by Water Resources Bureau of Taichung City Government
In a bygone era when it was a beautiful waterway lined with willow trees, Liuchuan Canal was known as the "River of Little Kyoto". However, increasing development of Taichung's Central district led to its decline into an unnoticeable downtown ditch. Fortunately, the stage is now set for it to recapture its previous glory, after Taichung City Government cleaned up its waters and beautified its banks.
Recent months have seen growing excitement among residents of Central district's Liuchuan village, thanks to the late-2016 completion of the "Liuchuan Canal Regulation and Environment Improvement Construction" project. As temporary, surrounding fencing was removed, many onlookers were stunned by the fresh river scene. Village Chief Tsai Cui-pi happily noted, "Many people think the new Liuchuan Canal is a great photo-taking location! There are dragonflies around the clear waters and you can even see fish in the river, just like the old days."
Historical connections between the river and city development
The Liuchuan is one of four rivers running through Taichung City, the others being the Luchuan Canal, Meichuan Canal and Mayuantou River. Tsai recalls seeing and catching a variety of fish and shrimp in the river as a little girl while washing clothing on its banks with her mother. Spring waters gushing down its course were cold in the summer and warm in the winter.
Liuchuan Canal was originally known as Dadun River before the Japanese colonial period, when it was transformed to resemble a river flowing through Kyoto, with willow trees on both sides. This led to the current name, which means "willow creek". The river's three sides (bottom and both banks) were then lined in concrete as a flood-prevention measure. Increasing urban development and population growth, however, resulted in an influx of polluted water and garbage, transforming into a stinking waterway best avoided.
Right: City government water treatment concepts are designed to not only prevent flooding, but also nurture hydrophilic life in the city.
Gradual reduction in heavily-polluted water
As part of Taichung City Government's promise to give residents a clear river, a metropolitan river remediation plan was promoted. Covering four kilometers, it was completed in two phases: 1) cleaning up the water between Chongdeliu and Zhongzhengliu bridges by the end of 2015; 2) designing and constructing new river scenery between Zhongzhengliu and Minquanliu bridges by the end of 2016.
Taichung City Government Water Resource Bureau Division Chief Liao Chien-yao notes, "The main focus for this plan is water treatment, which is different from any other river remediation plan as previously carried out." As soon as water treatment was implemented, water quality became noticeably better, with the RPI (river pollution index) for Liuchuan Canal dropping below 3.
With the 300-meter stretch of river between Zhongzhengliu and MinQuanliu bridges becoming clean, the Water Resource Bureau has incorporated a Low Impact Development (LID) concept, emphasizing conservation and use of on-site natural features to protect water quality. For the section between Zhongzhengliu and Minquanliu bridges, concrete riverbank protection on each side has been pushed back by eight meters.
Right: Concrete riverbank protection on each side has been pushed back eight meters, reducing vehicular street traffic.
A fresh urban 'blue belt'
The widened river has helped create a better drainage system that reduces flooding problems, and a water recycling system beneath the river banks pushes water back up to the water bank via air compression during dry seasons.
The curving bank design showcases the beauty of the water flow and the construction team also warded off serious flooding by strengthening river-bank areas and trees.
A flourishing old downtown reappears
Water Resource Bureau Director Chou Ting-chang notes, "The Liuchuan project is one of the most anticipated qualified plans and has to be perfect so that Taichung residents will have faith in us." Another new project carried out between Zhongzhengliu and Nantunliu bridges has also boosted public trust and earned the 16th Public Construction Golden Quality Award.
The Liuchuan Canal Project is not simply a city government plan, but also reflects the idea that rivers belong to Taichung's people. The Liuchuan flows through Central district and near Taichung Literature Hall, parks and traditional markets. Visitors and residents may ride iBikes or walk along its banks during their leisure time.
As the Liuchuan village chief observes the completion of this project, she sees it as part of rejuvenating the old downtown. Besides Taichung Literature Hall and Old Taichung City Hall, the "candy store street" (ZhongXing St) and "fruit street" (ZhongZheng Rd) are also coming back to life.
Tsai has applied for Participatory Budgeting (a special government budget) to calculate renovation costs for ZhongShan Road's Lane 257, as well as Lane 13 of LiuChuan East Rd, Sec. 3. "Visiting these alleyways along Liuchuan Canal is now recommended, and all are welcome to our village office to find out more about the old city," she says with a smile.