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Finding a way to make money from Saigon River

Ho Chi Minh City has the shape of a river city. However, urbanization and arbitrary construction has encroached on and gradually obscured the river.

The land along the Saigon River and water surface has also been wasted, and the city's residential community has lost the opportunity to access the beautiful space of the Saigon River.

According to the HCM City Department of Transport, since 2010, the canal system in the city, including the Saigon River, has been seriously encroached upon. The number of encroachment cases over the river and canal system has been on the rise, from 115 violation cases in 2021 to 184 cases in 2013, 284 cases in 2014, 361 cases in 2015.

The system of canals and rivers in inner Ho Chi Minh City is also seriously polluted from industrial wastewater and people's domestic waste.

Currently, there are 47 factories, production facilities, and industrial parks upstream of the Saigon River.

The city is turning its back on the Saigon River, treating the river in a way that is not commensurate with its value. In only a quarter of a century from now, if we don't change our behavior with the river in time, there will be many unfortunate consequences.

Saigon River is new focus of urban planning in HCM City

Director of the HCM City Department of Planning and Architecture Nguyen Thanh Nha says the city is paying more attention to the landscape of the Saigon River as a new axis in urban planning.

“Two years ago, the city’s leaders realized this. Accordingly, Ho Chi Minh City has rotated its axis towards the river, considering the Saigon River as the façade. The city wants to explore the river's advantages, and call for the people’s involvement so as to earn money from the river,” Mr. Nha said.

The municipal government is reviewing the master development plan of the Saigon River from Cu Chi to the T-junction of the Saigon-Dong Nai River, toward developing the areas along both sides of the river, preventing river encroachment and preserving the value of the river.

At a recent seminar on urban development along the Saigon River, expert Tran Du Lich said that it is necessary to build a road along the Saigon River. This route will not only help solve traffic problems but also be a driving force for the city’s economy. The land along the two sides of the river will be used to create urban and residential areas, which will then generate revenue and stimulate economic activities.

According to urban experts, the city should adjust urban planning along the Saigon River with two main functional areas.

Firstly, to maximize the public land along the Saigon River, social infrastructure works are needed to serve the community such as squares, parks, walking paths, flower gardens, restaurants, piers, exhibition centers, theaters and more to improve the cultural and spiritual life of the people.

Secondly, to prioritize the planning of low-rise garden houses and public land, complex projects are needed to effectively exploit the value of the land and the riverside landscapes.

The HCM City Real Estate Association said the city should hold bids to select investors to exploit the land along the Saigon River. However, it is necessary to limit the development of high-rises that obscure the river, and ensure existing landscapes and sustainable development.

Preserving cultural space 

Many experts warn about the danger, even disaster, in the future if people do not behave properly toward the Saigon River.

The river bends sharply at points, creating "camel humps" like Thanh Da or Thu Thiem. People’s activities can wear out those humps, making them disappear. Therefore, it is necessary to find a development model to adapt to the river and leave a legacy for future generations.

Human development has always been associated with water sources and rivers. The Saigon River is a treasure, and development planning, along with a cultural preservation policy, will be a good starting point. Hopefully, in the next 5-10 years, we will see a different appearance of the Saigon River.

Ho Van

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