Saigon legislators blame high-rise buildings for clogged streets

By Trung Son   December 9, 2016 | 06:51 pm GMT+7

Skyscrapers are going up but people’s quality of life is going down, with traffic gridlocks taking a heavy toll on ordinary people.

Traffic jams in Ho Chi Minh City are going from bad to worse, and legislators have blamed the increasing number of high-rise buildings as the main cause.

Members of HCMC People’s Council, the municipal legislature, said at meeting on Thursday that the government should clarify how it takes traffic into consideration when licensing the construction of high-rise buildings.

They said skyscrapers in the city, especially shopping malls, are being built very close to each other.

To Thi Bich Chau gave the example of the new Saigon Center, a shopping, office and housing complex standing just across the street from Saigon Square in District 1 next to the Le Loi-Nam Ky Khoi Nghia intersection, one of the busiest in the city.

There are other shopping malls and hotels less than one kilometer away.

“Many commuters get stuck in constant traffic jams every day,” Chau said.

Traffic police said congestion in the city, the country’s most crowded with 12 million people, has become serious, with heavy traffic throughout the day and night.

Tran Trong Tuan, director of the city's construction department, admitted that high-rise buildings are overtaking infrastructure investments, such as road expansion.

Tuan said the city’s leaders are also aware of the problem but are yet to come up with a solution.

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has asked legislators in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to supervise the construction of high-rise buildings in downtown areas, given how strained infrastructure is.

But the two largest cities are not the only ones suffering from this negative aspect of urban development.

Huynh Duc Tho, chairman of Da Nang’s local government, also said at a meeting on Thursday that high-rise buildings are increasing the population density in the city center and putting huge pressure on transport infrastructure.

Tuan, the HCMC construction official, said the city used to require developers in District 2 and Binh Tan District to pay into an infrastructure fund, but the model has ended. “Developers already have to pay money to the state for land use rights. They cannot be forced to contribute to infrastructure.”

But Nguyen Thi Quyet Tam, HCMC's top legislator, said it is not enough for developers just to pay back with money.

“Some projects have contributed significantly to the state budget but have had adverse affects on people’s quality of life,” Tam said.

“We need to take a wider view to guarantee people’s quality of life and sustainable development.”

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Traffic jams cost Ho Chi Minh City $820 million each year