Monday, 2 January 2017

New Year's Weekend Up & Down The Chianan Irrigation Trunk Canals (嘉南大圳)

So happy new year to all, and I start 2017 with some pictures of mud, water and concrete walls. I'd have preferred to get back up to Keelung this weekend, but this particular trip was also something I had wanted to do for a while. Girlfriend had to go to work this weekend, so I had two days to myself and not much money left after Christmas. Besides, this was one of those trips I had to do by myself as nobody else in their right mind would want to spend all day driving around only to take pictures of some mud and water. And concrete walls.

The Chianan Irrigation canal delivers water over a large area spanning the two counties of Tainan and Chiayi (the name "Chianan" is a portmanteu of "Chiayi" and "Tainan"). Beginning at Wushantou reservoir, just north of the geographical center of Tainan, the canal soon splits into a northern and southern trunk, with more than a dozen branch canals directed westward to feed the outer reaches of this large agricultural plain. Of the two trunk canals, the northern one covers by far the larger cardinal distance carrying the reservoir's water approximately 48 km* all the way up north to the Beigang river which forms the natural border between Chiayi and Yunlin counties. A further, 38 km* section of this trunk canal continues on the northern side of the river, only the water carried by this section flows from north to south emptying out into the Beigang river after being fed into the canal from a large intake structure on the Zhuoshui river, which, in addition to being Taiwan's largest river, is also the natural boundary between Yunlin county to the south and Changhua county to the north.

The southern canal reaches approximately 21 km* south into Tainan's Xinhua district whereupon it then meanders a further 15* km westward forming an inverted "S" shape through the largely industrial district of Yongkang before finally ending in a confluence with the Yenshui river (which, further downstream, passes by the downscaled Anping Fort reconstruction). The southern trunk canal has a total length of approximately 36 km, but due to something like two fifths of its' length tracking a difficult to follow westward route, a cursory glance at it on a map would make it appear to be far shorter in total length than the northern trunk canal.

I began on Saturday, with a short trip out to Yongkang to see the ending of the southern trunk canal...

Looking eastward; the building in front is a pumping station for flood control.
This was the clearest shot I could manage of the pumping station.
Looking westward; an old, abandoned pumping house.
A clearer shot of the older pumping station. Remarkably the glass roof appears to be unbroken.
The canal's water must pass out into the Yenshui river via a series of fifteen culvert pipes...
... with corresponding metal trap doors on the other side of the levee.
The outlet into the Yenshui river flowing right (east) to left (west). The factories on the other side of the river are all within Tainan's large Annan district. That particular factory with the "TYC" or "TYO" logo has long confused me because I know TYC (they manufacture lamps for cars and motorcycles and more recently street lighting fixtures) and whilst they do have a factory in Annan district, it is not that one. If the logo is instead "TYO" then I have no idea who they are.
The next day, the first of January, I drove north up to the Chianan trunk canal division point just west of Wushantou reservoir itself. It is at this place where the canal is separated into northern and southern trunks...

Looking eastward over the very first section of the canal moving slowly westward out of Wushantou reservoir out of sight in the distance, way behind freeway number 3 which crosses over the canal.
The canal with the northern control station as seen from a staircase alongside the southern control station.
The start of the northern trunk canal.
This is not a great shot but you can just see the right angle formed by the primary canal and the start of the southern trunk canal on the other side of the control station building.
The start of the southern trunk canal.
Having taken my photographs, I headed northwest through Lioujia and back onto provincial highway 1 north to Chiayi city. From Chiayi city I took Wenhua road northwest out into the county's Xingang township and then switched to the county roads 164, then the 157 and finally the 86 passing through the Beilun "painted frog village" to get to the end of the northern trunk canal. At its' northernmost point, the trunk canal reaches a flood control levee for the Beigang river, where a large gate exists to pass any remaining water out through the levee and into a ditch leading down through farmland into the river...

Myself, first of January 2017, standing on the southern levee for the Beigang river at the end of the northern trunk canal (background right) carrying water north out of Wushantou reservoir.
The end of the northern trunk canal; the concrete wall in the background is the levee. As you can see there is almost no water at all left in the canal by this point; it is mostly just filled with mud.
Not my preferred lifestyle: this old man was using a small pump to get the water out and help him search for trapped fish which he was putting into a net. The other locals stood by watching, like it was some sort of TV show...
Looking back southwards down the canal.
It was disgusting; the end of the canal is filled with trash, not just mud and the old man kept looking for fish and snails. The sad thing was that most of the fish were minnows trapped in shallow water (it would likely have been shallow even before they brought the pump along). Wading through muddy canals is something of a tradition among Taiwanese elders who live out in the counties. It's not something I would choose to do, but he probably thinks it's normal.

Whilst I was taking pictures, I spoke briefly to one of the locals who was watching the "entertainment". To my surprise he knew even less about the canal than I did. When I mentioned that this was the end of the north trunk canal from Wushantou reservoir, he contradicted me and said that it was instead filled with water from the Beigang river! When I laughed at this, he asked one of the older men who confirmed that I was right, but who then added an amazing twist of his own; he claimed that the canal continues under the Beigang river and into the trunk canal on the northern side - a claim which is not only wrong, but absurd as it would require complex engineering and a considerable pumping station when a simple aqueduct would be a much easier solution. There is also the fact that the water in the canal on the other side is flowing north to south, rather than south to north, but he obviously didn't know that. I decided to leave and cross over to the northern riverbank to see the other section of the canal anyway. On the way I stopped to take a picture of a recently completed temple...

I chose to drive over to Beigang town itself to have a quick look around, but that turned out to be a big mistake as it was absolute chocker-block full of tourists. I eventually squeezed my way out of there and up onto the top of the levee which separates the river's flood plain from the town and its surroundings to the north. I hadn't gone far before I caught sight of the unmistakable wing beat pattern of an Osprey. I quickly stopped, dismounted and switched lenses...

My first glimpse of the Osprey over the edge of town.
Eventually, the Osprey flew over onto the other side of the levee where I could shoot without the sun getting in the way.
Hovering over the farmer's field, presumably having spotted a mouse or a vole.
My favourite shot of the day, cropped to zoom in somewhat. More Osprey shots below, no comment necessary, other than to note that I have read Ospreys only occasionally eat rodents and prefer fish most of the time. I wonder how good the observational data on Osprey diet actually is? For example, if the Ospreys observe fish or even other birds getting entangled in fishing nets, do they then adapt to hunt for land-based animals instead? 

After that moment of excitement I carried on along the levee, taking a detour to pass under the high speed rail line. The cause for the detour was the construction of a new pumping station to pump water out of this stream and out into the Beigang river in case of flooding...

Construction of a new pumping station.
The bend in the stream as it approaches the levee gates to the Beigang river.
A short while later I arrived at the point, diametrically opposite the end of the northern trunk canal in Chiayi, where the second section of the northern trunk canal (the one fed north to south by the intake structure on the Zhuoshui river rather than south to north by Wushantou reservoir) comes to its similar conclusion at the levee for the Beigang river...

Gazing northward over the supplementary, Yunlin county section of the canal.
The drainage ditch from the Yunlin canal heading south toward the Beigang river.
Another view, from slightly further to the west overlooking the Yunlin canal. Note the obvious lack of water.
A plaque commemorating the construction of the Yunlin section of the Chianan canal.
And a stone inscription which says something about "resource sharing".
Three iron gates along the ditch running parallel to the Yunlin canal.
An old farmer, with almost identical grey pants, white shirt and red baseball cap as the other elder who had been writhing about in the mud at the end of the canal on the Chiayi side of the river.
I followed the canal a little way upstream to have a quick look although it was getting into late afternoon and it would soon be time to drive back to Tainan. I stopped at the next large water gate and found something quite unfortunate, but which I probably should have expected...

The concentration of sediment over many years.
There is more mud behind this water gate than there is water, which meant...
... fish were dying, struggling to breathe in the shallow water and unable to swim upstream due to the effects of the mud.
This one was putting up something of a fight.
But tens of his comrades had already passed out from suffocation.
Perch of some kind, I think.
After witnessing this little horror show, and deciding I didn't want to spend the next two or three hours ruining my clothes to save some poor fish, I started the drive back to Tainan. Had I been wearing wellies, a pair of shorts and had a bucket of water handy, I probably would have jumped in to fish them out, though whether they would have made it for the drive down to the river, I don't know.

For the next trip I would like to go north all the way into Yunlin county's Linnei township where the intake structure lies for that second section of the northern trunk canal...

*All values obtained from measuring the canal myself on google maps.

1 comment:

  1. What a day! So much discovery! And such a passion for the canals! it's amazing! It's just a pity for all these fish, the old gentleman takes advantage of it, don't know if the fish are good:0 Happy New year to you!


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