RSE-MOST Project Work in Taipei, January 2018

In January 2018, we had the first Taipei session for our Royal Society of Edinburgh-Ministry of Science and Technology Joint Research Project. Following on from the Scotland visit last summer, this time it was Leslie’s turn to travel to Taiwan to further our understanding of green infrastructure and its role in climate change adaptation. The purpose of this year’s visit was to build a good understanding of the social, policy and environmental context within which green infrastructure is considered in Taipei, in order to develop a comparable dataset to the material we collected in Glasgow last year. To that end, we undertook both site visits and interview-based research over the course of the week.

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First stop was Winchain Consultants, who are involved in part of the urban planning review for Taipei City. Over the course of nearly two hours we learned much about the potential for greening actions in the city to provide socio-economic benefit, and about the challenges and opportunities for greening actions within the policies and regulations in place in Taipei.

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Discussion with Wen-Yan Jiang of Winchain Consultants

We then jumped onto the blue and red MRT lines (note: I love the music the trains play when they arrive…) to head to our first site visit, to the wetlands around Guandu Nature Park in the north of Taipei. We availed ourselves of bicycles in order to cover as much ground as possible in the time available, taking in some of the nature park itself, seeing fishing activities at the convergence of the Keelung and Tamsui Rivers, and getting a good chance to observe the biological diversity that is present in this part of the city. For me (Leslie) at least, this was the first time for me to get out of the centre of Taipei, and to see a different kind of ‘nature’ within the city to the very disciplined and managed parks I have been used to so far.

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Meeting Po-Hung Liu and team

Thursday brought one of those busy, frantic days that social scientists like me simultaneously love and hate – the double-header interview. Our morning interviewee was Ian Chen of CNHW Planning and Design Consultants, who was involved in developing a green infrastructure plan for Taipei back in 2010 and brought us a different perspective to the more socially- and economically-focused discussion we had heard the previous day. Then it was a dash across town to New Taipei City, where we met Po-Hung Liu, Honorary President of the Taiwan Institute of Landscape Architects. Liu has been heavily involved in trying to bring different sectors together with the aim of progressing urban greening in Taipei, and indeed facilitated the forum at which I ended up being an impromptu speaker in December 2016. Wan-Yu did a terrific job to translate all of Liu’s knowledge into English as we went along, and from a social engagement perspective it was fantastic to hear about initiatives such as Taipei Open Green which aim to increase community participation in greening actions across the city.

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At Parks and Street Lights Office, Taipei City

Our final meeting of the week was with the Parks and Street Lights Office of Taipei City Government. As the name suggests, they are responsible for the formal designated parks within the city, and – as they told us during our interview – have the unenviable task of trying to balance a range of societal pressures and development imperatives within the spaces they manage. Clearly we need to analyse our findings before we jump to any conclusions, but it was interesting in our discussion to see how the higher-level rhetoric of citizen participation in Taipei is filtering down to issues such as management of open space.

Other highlights of the week included a chance to catch up with new team member Yi-Chen Huang, who at the time was just about to embark on the bold move of leaving Taiwan to move to Aberdeen and start her PhD under Leslie’s supervision (she has subsequently arrived in Scotland and is settling in well!) Both of us are very much looking forward to having Yi-Chen’s input on this project and others. There was also an impromptu extended opportunity to look at how the green and blue corridors of Neihu and Zhongshan Districts have developed along and near to the Keelung River. It’s been said that despite having several large watercourses, in recent years Taipei and its residents have not had much of a relationship with their rivers – so it was educational to see the steps that have been taken to draw out more societal benefit from these spaces, particularly as regards recreation and provision of corridors for sustainable transportation by bicycle.

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View towards Guandu Nature Park

Happily, this trip also continued our run of good fortune. This is now the third consecutive time we have received good news relating to our collaborative research just after Leslie has returned to Scotland from visiting Taipei! This time it is a couple of papers which have been accepted for publication, and as soon as they are out in the public domain we will tell you more!

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Fishing vessels and river banks at the convergence of the Keelung and Tamsui Rivers

Originally posted on urbangreenadaptationdiary.wordpress.com

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