Plans for sustainable development of Saigon river banks

Recently, land encroachments along the Saigon river have increased significantly, especially around areas where there is a high population density.

A corner of the Saigon River corridor.

A corner of the Saigon River corridor.

The river banks are also segmented by several real estate projects which have caused barriers on roads along the river. The parks located along the river have also become private areas for people who live in close proximity to some real estate projects.

To resolve and tackle these issues, the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City held a conference for finding solutions and for planning and developing the Saigon river inner city canal banks by 2025.

Over the last few years, the areas along the river banks have been encroached for illegal construction of various projects which consequently have caused land banks to slide or collapse and also impacted the general architecture of the City.

According to the plan, the areas along the river banks will be used for planting trees and building parks and other sustainable constructions. The City also plans to explore the Saigon river for tours as well as build a river bus route. The water flood-protection project with total investment of VND 10,000bn which is being implemented in response to climate change will divide the river banks into ten zones. So far, 15% of the river and canal bank construction has been completed.

However, the strategy to develop the river banks is not being implemented seriously. Several projects along the river banks are not consistent. Especially, the river areas which flow across District 2 are becoming a back yards or yacht ports of several private villas. Some river areas are being used for opening of restaurants and cafeterias. These problems have not yet been resolved.

According to Nguyen Thien Nhan, the Saigon river is a special asset of Ho Chi Minh City, hence, the city will build a plan to consistently develop the City as well as the river banks by 2030-2045.

Some topics which were discussed seriously at the conference included independent planning without the influence of developers; prohibition of river encroachments; protecting the river banks; and ensuring proper functions of the river and canals. The plan is to create parks along the river and canal banks in some inner city districts and connect these parks with roads along the river.

Vo Van Hoan, Vice Chairman of the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City:

Need to clarify responsibilities of all people

The entire river and canal system is very important in the development of Ho Chi Minh City. However, the city is facing many challenges, such as landslides and land subsidence caused by over-urbanization and land encroachments because of inconsistent management.

Hence, finding solutions to resolve these problems, extract the most potential from these areas along the river and improve the landscape of these areas as well as contribute to the economic growth of the City are crucial factors.

To achieve these objectives, the authorities need to have modern planning ideas. The leaders need to look directly into the conditions and reality of the City to develop open public areas as well as economic projects. Ho Chi Minh City should use a special mechanism, based on Decree 54, to attract investments for projects in transportation system, tourism and so on.

The City should also have a legal framework and mechanism to clarify the responsibility of all people, and the role of residents and enterprises. The City should have a mechanism to attract investments in constructing some key sustainable projects to protect the river and canal banks.

Nguyen Thanh Nha, Head of Department of Planning and Architecture, Ho Chi Minh City:

Most projects are not generally consistent

According to Decision 150/2004 and Decision 22/2017, the river banks will have a corridor with width of 30-50m to protect the area. Accordingly, trees, parks, and roads will be planted and constructed along the river banks. The People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City has directed other ministries and government offices to develop such projects along the river and canals.

However, the consistency in developing these projects to extract the maximum potential of river banks is limited as the City lacks a master plan. Most projects do not consider the river and canals as the core in planning and implementing of construction projects.

Most projects do not have solutions for specific areas and regions; they lack consistency between different projects in water flood-protection; most projects do not focus on environment protection or exploring the potential of landscapes or transportation system; while river bank encroachments have become very common, especially with residents living nearby.

Le Hoang Chau, Chairman of HoREA:

Should revise legal framework to explore potential of river and canals

Firstly, the government should create a legal framework allowing transfer of land to developers to develop projects along the river banks and canals. The government then should have a mechanism to protect the corridor. It should add this to Urban Planning Law and Construction Law to govern the planning, segmenting the river bank and protecting the corridor.

We suggest Ho Chi Minh City review all regulations related to the river bank, corridor and canals. The authorities should not allow too many projects along the river and stop encroachments along the river banks.

There should be regulations that require developers to have responsibility when constructing the corridors, dikes, parks, and other public services to protect the river banks. For projects that are new developments along the river banks, authorities should have a mechanism to encourage developers to complete the infrastructure along river banks, canals, in parks, and other public areas.

Miquel Angel Perez Martorell, Member of National Tourism Consulting Team:

Expand areas along the river banks

Fifteen years ago, tourism activities in Spain started to grow strongly similar to Vietnam now. In Spain, especially Barcelona where I live, the tourism services like restaurants, hotels, entertainment surged suddenly. I saw service centers and hotels rising everywhere. As a result, people began to throw garbage into the sea and canals. After that, Barcelona had to remove all hotels constructed along the sea and river which had been creating barriers for tourists to go to the sea and beaches.

Ho Chi Minh City has advantages of canals and river banks. It should expand these area, and avoid the mistakes made by Barcelona. The City should turn the banks along the canals and river into public areas, entertainment parks, restaurants or cafeterias. The City should build a river bus route. People can easily go there and connect with other areas via this river bus route. The areas along the river and canals should be treated as a part of the transportation system of the City and must not be segregated.

Do Tra Giang

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