- Posted January 7, 2013 by
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Biological Diversity in Wugou Wetland Guarded by the Wisdom of the Habitants
Author: Jing-Huei, Liao / Translator: Yu-Ching, Wang / Photo Provided: Jing-Huei, Liao via flickr
Located in Wanluan town of Pingtung county, Wugou village is a natural wetland with many spots where spring bubbles up. The residents continue writing the history of this quiet village by living the culture, greeting each other in Haka, eating rice noodle, and reaping betel nuts,. In 2008, Ministry of Culture (the former Council for Cultural Affairs) has tried to set this unspoiled village as “traditional village” reserved at national level.
Not until the villagers protested against a reconstruction project of typhoon Morakot did Wugou village become famous. Many scholars, NGOs and legislators plead the government for seeking other alternatives, but the consensus is still not reached and the construction is continually postponed.
Wugou Watch Workstation
Closely inlaid into the neighborhood, Wugou Watch Workstation was established 3 years ago to contact the habitants and improve village development. The workstation issues Wugou monthly community newsletter to remind the villagers of the natural landscape and cultural assets.
The pure spring originated from Dawu Mountain flows to the top of the alluvial fan and bubbles up out of the ground in Wugou. The terminal point of the spring is a pond in which the water temperature remains 24 ℃ all year round.
Except Zacco pachycephalus and Puntius Semifasciolatus, 20 to 30 types of waterweeds, including the rare Hydrolea zeylanica, can often be found in the pond. In addition, many kinds of dragonflies (such as Ictinogomphus Rapax, Asiagomphus Septimus, Anotogaster Sieboldii) plays around the pond. Taiwan’s Wetlands of Importance recommended list of Wugou wetland has recorded 32 families and 84 species of plants and at least 30 species of resident birds and 9 species of migratory birds in the area.
Suffering from Water
The problems of concrete usage on irrigation canal exist in many Taiwanese agricultural villages as well as Wugou village. “The cement retaining wall that replaced ecological methods has led water into the ditched instead of the fields.” said Jin-Kun Liu, head of Wugou Watch Workstation. The construction of retaining wall has not only destroyed the natural water retaining function of vegetation, but also decreased biological diversity. Many local fish species have disappeared, only mouthbreeders survive.
In June, Thousand Mile Trail and some private corporations have jointly adopted hundreds of sapling on the bank. Hopefully, through maintaining the vegetation, both ecological environment and village life can be improved.
Traditional Haka Culture
Wugou is the only village that reserves “cannon-castle attacking” activities of Lantern Festival in Haka area of Pingtung. In 2009, Jin-Kun Liu and local elders formed “Association of Wugou Adobe House and Traditional Village Conservation”, which aims to establish connections between villagers and help them understand the meaning and importance of the traditional village.
Besides, the earliest betel nut cultivation in Taiwan was in Wugou. Villagers used to intermarry with Plains aborigines who lived nearby. According to the marriage custom of Plains aborigines, the husband’s side must prepare two clusters of betel nuts. For this reason, people usually planted betel nuts around theirs houses. Till 1970s, the betel nut industry had grown prosperously because of the purchases of intermediate traders. Nevertheless, betel trees cannot retain water and soil therefore should be cultivated at least 30 meter away from the bank.
Challenging Flood Drainage Project
Although typhoon Morakot did not inflict severe damage on Wugou in 2009, the Morakot post-disaster reconstruction caused flooding issues here. To solve the problem, the Pingtung County government planned Hsinchih Farm Permanent Housing Drainage Improvement Project, which directs water to Wugou and broadens the watercourse to 18 meters. Residents are concerned that natural landscape and flood detention function would no longer exist.
NGOs and legislators have suggested the county government to use flood division instead of broadening the watercourse. It is also proposed that the private properties, where the flood might pass, could be levied or leased. On the other hand, some Wugou villagers are in favor of the drainage improvement project because they worry that the fields might be washed away. After several discussions, the consensus is still not reached and the construction is continually postponed.
Power of Community
“Unlike most of other agricultural villages struggling for water with industrial sectors, Wugou is suffering because of too much water.” said Jin-Kun Liu. The reconstruction project has made Wugou famous, but what really brings people here is its unique charm. Radio and television majored students come here for recording a program. Many people participate in the camps held by Wugou Watch Workstation. No matter how the reconstruction project may evolve, it is for sure that the residents will keep guarding this village, its natural environment as well as the ancestors’ wisdom.