The metamorphosis of urban river landscape


Written by Su Yu-wen


    Rivers contain abundant fresh water resources, providing necessities for human survival. Therefore, human settlements tend to develop by river banks. With the population growth, the demand for land utilization increased. Likewise, river bank zones being to develop into urban settlements. At the same time, it also creates demand for flood control, and the problems of water pollution and dirty environment. During the process of development, perhaps for the purpose of securing more lands as usable spaces, people sacrifice rivers, on which covers are built, thus smothering rivers.

    In recent years, people have become more demanding on the living environment, with more emphasis on river landscapes, for example the “Old Street River Regulation and Landscape Transformation Project” implemented by Taoyuan City Government. In this project, construction schemes include the removal of the lids covering the river courses, the renovation of revetments and embankments, the drainage improvements plans, the sewage interception schemes, beautification and rebuilding of bridges, river bank landscape construction projects, and more.

    The construction of the covers on the river were built by Zhongli District Office in 1989 in order to improve the markets around the water course. Due to insufficient management, the problems of traffic jams, deliberate discharge of household sewage, and more were created. And the architecture of Old Street River Market was built to provide more parking spaces and convenient management of street vendors. However, the contractors did not build it according to related rules and regulations, resulting in failure in obtaining a use permit. As a result, it had become an illegal building, unable to be used. More importantly, it narrowed down the street, bringing sediments and piling garbage on the riverbed, and causing the problems of the blocking of flood capacity, sewage discharge, and more (as shown in Fig. 1). Therefore, the Taoyuan City Government began to plan to demolish the lids on the river in 1996. Related projects were completed on 2010 to improve the flood capacity and environmental landscape (as shown in Fig. 2).  


Entrance with add-on lids       Heaped garbage

Blocked the river's cross-section Illegal usage

Heaped sediments             Sewage discharge

  • Photo adapted from the briefing materials of Professor Huang Hung-pin, National Taiwan University (Deputy County Mayor of Taoyuan County then)

·         Fig. 1 Problems derived from add-on lids on Old Street River

Widened river course | Rebuilt and beautified bridge

Green belts on river banks | Lighting at night


·         Fig. 2 Landscapes of Old Street River after improvement


    The improvement project of Cao Gong Canal in Fengshan, Kaohsiung is a similar project. Due to business development, agriculture declined, and the canal ceased to function for irrigation purpose. Following the steps of urbanization, the river is packed with illegal buildings. Garbage and sediments were heaped on the riverbed, and sewage was discharged into the river improperly, rendering the environment dirty, and filling the neighborhood with a stingy smell. As a result, the canal had become a stingy duct and sewage collection zone that local inhabitants avoid. In 2007, Kaohsiung Government launched the “Fengshan Rivers Regulation Project – Cao Gong Canal Regulation Scheme,” which was executed in four stages. When the regulation scheme was completed, the landscape along the banks and water quality of the canal were greatly improved (as shown in Fig. 3).



·           Source: Water Resources Bureau, Kaohsiung City Government
Fig. 3 A comparison of Cao Gong Canal’s landscape before and after the improvement project

    In addition to the case discussed above, there are still many examples on river restoration, improvement of river landscape and function, landscape construction and environment beautification. An example that is under active preparation is the “Taichung City Lu Chuan Drain Environment Construction Plan” executed by Taichung City Government and the “Yunling River Lid-removal Project” executed by Yunlin County Government.

    With reference to the information of request for tender of Taichung City Lu Chuan Drain Environment Construction Plan (2016), considering the fact that Taichung City Central District was the origin of early business, urban rejuvenation had been neglected for a prolonged period. As a result, there are the problems of poor environment quality, traffic jams, and deterioration of city functions. Due to the rapid industrial and commercial development Lu Chuan Drain and rapid growth in population by the banks of Lu Chuan Drain, discharge sewage had contaminated the water. In order to lessen the stingy smell and increase public space, the canal section from Guangfu Road to Taiwan Boulevard were covered with add-on lids.

    This project intends to uncover the lids and restore the environment of the banks of Lu Chuan. It also improves the environment around the scenic spots of Taichung Head-water Point, Miyahara Eye Clinic and more to restore the charm of the Central District and lay the foundation of a beautiful landscape there. With the goals of drainage and flood control, the functions of “water regulation,” “water flow,” “water fun,” “water vitality” and more have been worked on to promote the local culture and everyday life value. Its scope is shown in Fig. 4.


  • Source: Water Resource Bureau, Taichung City Government, 2016
    Fig. 4 Lu Chuan Drain Environment Construction Plan

    Yunlin River runs through Douliou City center, which is associated with the local humanistic scenes and historic tales. In the memories of many citizens, they could fish or catch fish by the river banks. This place preserves many people’s childhood memories of playing with water, hide and seek, and more.

    With the progress of times, population grew and industry emerged. As a result domestic and industrial sewage increased significantly, contaminating the water. With the muddying of the once clear water, the scene of watching leisure fishes swimming in the water ceased to exist. It had become the lament of stingy smell. People had to cover their noses when passing by it. After 1991, parking lots were built along part of the water course Yunlin River. Although it covered the stingy smell, it also covered the river banks.

    A river regulated with a good plan can activate a city. It is a pity that Yunlin River that runs through Daoliu City is covered. With the Yunlin River Lids Removal plan, it aims to remove the lids and grow plants along it to transform Daoliu City into a beautiful water fun zone and recreational sightseeing city. With reference to the ePaper of Yunlin City Government (2016), it is known that according to the Yunlin River Lids Removal Project, the construction starts at Ox Mart Bridge and ends at Zhongshan Road (as shown in Fig. 5), with the length of about 800m (as the section from Zhongshan Road to Yunlin Road is located at the busy zone in the city center – Yunlin River Food Court, the lids will not be removed temporarily). The lids removal project regards the three-hole culvert boxes as the foundation (drain width about 20m), the walls at the sides of the culvert boxes will be retained and the embedment will be widened. Coordinating with the form of upstream revetments, mortar pebbles will be used for the revetments. The riverside slope ratio is 1:0.3 in design, preserving the deep drains with 10m wide and 0.5m deep to maintain regular flow. The 5m motorways and roadside trees will also be retained. It is estimated to be completed in April 2017.

·         Reference: Photo from Google Earth. Marked by the editor of this essay
Fig 5. The scope of lids removal on Yunlin River


    Natural rivers have the natural landscapes of meandering river courses, pure and clear water, and biodiversity. Removing the lids the cover the river will restore its natural landscape, a goal of river restoration agreed and expected by everyone. In addition to the government policies and measures, considering the issues of safety and flood control, reconstructing the riverside landscapes with dual concern of the making of an ecological friendly environment and support of and maintenance by the general public, it is expected to promote the efficacy of river restoration. 



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