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Taiwan's Beautiful Canals and Ditches
With a total area of just 36,000 square kilometers, it might be difficult to imagine that the tiny island of Taiwan has 1,945 irrigation canals and ditches.The total length of these canals is more than 47,000 km, longer than the 40,070-km circumference of the Earth at the equator, according to the Council of Agriculture (COA).
Rivers gestate human civilization. Canals and ditches are important to Taiwan and it is reasonable to say that they have gestated Taiwanese culture.
Taiwan has 118 rivers and streams under government supervision, of which 24 are under the central government and 94 are under local governments, while the number of rivers is quite considerable. Most of these rivers are short and steep with rapid flows.They flow into the ocean quickly, which attributes to flooding during typhoon season. During the dry season, however, the river beds are exposed and the ability of reservoirs to supply water is insufficient. Hence, canals, ditches and weirs play important roles in diverting this rapid river flow for irrigation.Naturally, water attracts people who gather for cultivation, which leads to commercial activities and attracts more people to settle. Thus, tribes are formed and civilizations begin.
Oxen, ploughs, rice and irrigation channels are considered the four treasures in the history of Taiwan's agricultural development, and these ditches and canals played an important role during the earliest settling of Taiwan.
The construction of Taiwan's canals began before the period of Dutch occupation. When early Chinese immigrants from China's Fujian and Guangdong provinces came to Taiwan, they followed the same agrarian lifestyles they left behind in China and built irrigation systems, relying mainly on waterwheels and bailing buckets. Few water conservancy works were constructed during the Dutch occupation, other than the Tsan-jo pond and the "Dutch ditch, " along with eight wells in the Tainan area of southern Taiwan.
Several water conservancy works and projects were developed in the Ming and Ching dynasties. Pa Pao Chun, one of the majorworks at the time, was built by Shih-pang Shih in 1735 and turned a 12,000-hectare of wilderness into fertile fields.Liu Kung Canal, which was built in 1749, irrigated 1,200 ha of farmland in Taipei, while in 1839, the completion of the Tsao Kung canal by Tsao Chin irrigated 10,581 ha.In 1902, during the Japanese colonial era, U.S. construction techniques using reinforced concrete were introduced to Taiwan, and in 1908, the Japanese government started to invest heavily in Taiwan's irrigation systems, such as the Tzubih, Shihtsuto, Houli, Chihnan, Taoyuan, Paileng, Erhfeng and Beinan canals.
After World War II, the government of the Republic of China launched massive rebuilding and development projects for
irrigation works.During the 1970's, the government concentrated on reservoirs and dam construction. However, since the 1980's, rather than launching more new irrigation projects, the government has concentrated on improving the existing irrigation systems and drainage facilities, upgrading the existing canals and ditches, and using ecological methods to maintain existing facilities.
Changes in human requirements has brought new life to the country's canals and ditches. They not only serve the role of water supply and irrigation, but also have positive significance in maintaining underground water conservation, adjusting the effects of micro-climate and improving the water recycling system.
In addition, the upgrading of the irrigation systems has created a new range of recreational options for the public.
This feature consists of stories of Taiwan's canals and ditches that describes stories of people and god involved in Taiwan's canals construction.