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標題左邊圖檔 History of Irrigation in Taiwan 標題右邊圖檔 PDF download (all chapters:273KB)


Part II: Evolution of Irrigation and Drainage Facilities

The cultivation practice in early times in Taiwan adopted extensive farming systems such as "moving farm" and applied simple methods to divert river water into adjoining farming fields. In the course of farmland irrigation development, farmers in Taiwan gradually learned to make use of the abundant water supply from large streams and rivers for large-scale farmland irrigation. Ditching thus prevailed, making the previously moving farm into fixed farm. With the cropping system turning from extensive to intensive, the harvests of paddy rice were conducted two times in a year as compared to one time previously. The irrigation development history in Taiwan has been developed over 300 years, the major changes and evolution summarized in Fig. 3. The development of irrigation and drainage in Taiwan can be divided into three stages, namely, the Imperial Era (before 1895), the Colonial Era (1896-1945), and the Post-War Era (after 1945), as described below:

  1. A. Imperial Era (before 1895)
  2. Irrigation development in Taiwan originated from around 300 years ago, that was in the era of China's Yuan Dynasty when the island remained scarcely populated. The early settlers applied simple techniques to irrigation, when large-scale irrigation and drainage facilities and irrigation management systems were both absent. The term of irrigation facilities used in Taiwan was first referred to during the Dutch occupation period (1622-1661). Adopting the mercantilism, the Dutch in the 17th century colonized Taiwan and enforced its economic policies. During this period, the bulk of the farming labor comprised the Han people from the Chinese mainland and the aborigines on the island. They cultivated the land for farm around Tainan area today. As of the year of 1659, the farming households of the Han people totaled 25,000. The total paddy lands area was about 652 ha, sugarcane fields of 184 ha, and 500 ha of other crop farms.

    In view of high economic values of sugar, the Dutch in Taiwan encouraged sugarcane farming for producing sugar for export purpose. However, since the growth of sugarcane requires relatively less water, and thus there was no immediate need for water resources development. Later on, in order to achieve food self- sufficiency, the Dutch began provision with incentives for rice production and barn building in Taiwan.

    Evolution of Irrigation in Taiwan

    The need for better agricultural irrigation facilities thus became obvious, and the first irrigation facilities in Taiwan such as "wells" and "ponds" were then constructed, which were the beginning of the development of farmland irrigation on the island. However, most of these facilities were mainly built with materials such as straws, timber, soils and stones, which were gradually replaced with soil and stone structures. To avoid destruction by floods, these structures were mainly built across the rivers where the flows were relatively steady. Major irrigation facilities at this time included ponds and water wells, mostly located in today's Danshuei and Tainan areas.

    In the late Ming Dynasty (1662-1683), a dynastic officer Cheng Chen-Kung recovered Taiwan from the Dutch hands. For the purpose of supplying sufficient foods for his soldiers, he developed several irrigation projects, which included diversion works, ponds and canals, for farmland irrigation and improvement of agricultural production. He also used natural lakes and man-made ponds to store water for irrigation during drought seasons. The name "bih" and "jun" (both mean ponds and ditches) were used to refer to the water conveyance facilities. During this period, water resources development in Taiwan was politically motivated. Cheng garrisoned his troops and peasants in Taiwan to prepare for a long fight against the Ching Dynasty in the event of intrusion. When Cheng administered Taiwan, he divided the arable lands into "royal farms", "private farms", and the military controlled "garrison farms". The rice paddies area in Taiwan in those periods totaled approximately 17,900 ha, and the major irrigation ponds and canals totaled 24 units, which centered on today's areas of Tainan and Kaohsiung .

    As the immigrants from Chinese mainland to Taiwan increased following the Ching Dynasty's conquering of Taiwan in 1683, the demand for agricultural water also increased. In order to meet such demand, the private sector began to develope irrigation projects, either in form of private ownership or joint venture. During this stage, the irrigation undertaking in Taiwan was mainly managed by private sector but under the government's supervision. At this stage, today's area of Tainan remained as the center for settlements, crop cultivation and administration. In addition, due to sugar was a high value product, sugarcane cultivation was much more popular than paddy rice farming. Later on, due to over production of sugar, rapid increase in population, and rise in the market prices of rice, a large-scale transformation of sugarcane fields into paddy finally took place. In the meantime, water resources development was quickly expanding to cover the entire Chianan plain area, then across the Changhua plain and eventually reaching the Taichung basin. The total area of rice paddy fields exceeded 200,000 ha, of which about 110,000 ha were irrigated by canals that conveyed water diverted from streams/rivers, water stored in man-made ponds, or groundwater from wells.

  3. B. Colonial Era (1896-1945)
  4. To acquire the cadastral data, the Japanese Government established the Temporary Land Survey Bureau of Taiwan after it started colonizing the island in 1896. The bureau produced maps at scale 1:20,000 of the whole island. The maps served as the basis of irrigation system survey, for gaining the knowledge of operation of private irrigation facilities and land use situations for the development of farmland irrigation undertakings. Between the years of 1902 and 1906, the emphasis of irrigation undertaking was placed on facility renovation, that was to reduce water loss or leakage in the course of irrigation water transmission and distribution. Public canals registered during this period were 181 units totally; consisting of 25 in Taipei, 67 in Hsinchu, 35 in Taichung, 20 in Tainan, 31 in Kaohsiung, 2 in Taitung, and 1 in Hualien.

    Toward the development goal of "Agricultural Taiwan" set forth in the early 20th century, the Japanese Government invested heavily on irrigation projects. In reservoir construction, a total of 18 reservoirs and regulating pools were built, of which the Sun Moon Lake and the Wusantou Reservoir were among the largest. Both reservoirs were off-stream dams that store transbasin water. This phenomenon showed the sophistication of the planning concept and construction techniques at that time. As regards the irrigation projects, major systems included the Liukung, Touyuan, Papao, Shihtsuto, Houli, Tsaokung, Chiyeh, and Chianan Canals. The entire system of Touyuan Canal, for instance, then consisted of one main canal with 14 laterals and 6 sub-laterals, and also with 241 leading ditches to irrigation ponds and numerous tertiaries, totaling approximately 1,972 km in length. At that time the service area of the Taoyuan Canal was about 22,310 ha.

    The Japanese Government stipulated an island-wide land improvement plan for Taiwan in 1938, including 51 new projects to benefit a total area of 600,000 ha. The plan was scheduled to first complete the 13 significant projects including the Yenpu Project. Due to the outbreak of the World War II, however, only one project was duly completed. It was also during this period that Taiwan's irrigation management started a tendency to gradually form the pattern of centralization and the introduction of new science-based technologies and application of reinforced concrete techniques. As a result, the irrigation facilities development progressed rapidly. The total irrigated area in Taiwan increased to 560,000 ha by 1942, accounting for 69% of the total arable land at that time.

  5. C. Post-War Era (after 1945)
  6. After World War II, the government of Republic of China (R.O.C.) took over the sovereignty of Taiwan from Japanese occupation. At that time, the irrigation areas in Taiwan were reduced to merely 260,000 ha due to the war devastation. In order to produce food production as before, ensure social stability, and re-build national defence forces, the urgent irrigation works in the initial stage were concentrated on rehabilitation of existing facilities. And with the Government's subsidies provided, both reconstruction of war-ruined works and resumption of all unfinished pre-war projects were given first priority.

    Furthermore, the Government had implemented farmland consolidation projects since 1960, aimed to improve the agricultural production environment, boost the land use efficiency, and expand farm plot scales, and therefore promote farming mechanization for enhancement of farm management efficiency. The farmland consolidation is a process consolidating the excessively small and adjacent parcels of farmland through exchanges of their ownerships and the ensuing plot-annexation, and meanwhile increasing farm roads and improving farm drainage systems. The total arable land improved reached a total of 388,774 ha as of 2002.

    Till the year of 2000, the existing irrigation and drainage facilities managed by irrigation associations include, 69,293 km of large and small canals/ditches, 1,604 units of diversion dams, 17,518 units of regulating gates, 17,217 units of offtakes, 4,007 units of flumes, and 2,112 units of groundwater wells.


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