Garden islands on HCMC's Saigon River not to change flow of water much

By Gia Minh   May 24, 2024 | 07:31 pm PT
Floating gardens built on the Saigon River in downtown HCMC will create a unique and distinctive highlight, a French consortium of experts has said.

The Association of Vietnamese Scientists and Experts, a Paris-based organization of scientists and experts of Vietnamese heritage, and the L'institut Paris Region last week recommended building the "garden islands."

Nguyen Thu Tra of the research team said the proposal is predicated on the fact that the city center lacks green spaces and pedestrian connections between the river's two banks in District 1 and the Thu Thiem Peninsula in Thu Duc City.

This is very different from cities like Paris or London in the U.K., where people can easily stroll between the two banks of rivers, enabling people to experience a diverse aspect of the city, she told VnExpress in an exclusive interview.

HCMC has built major structures connecting Thu Thiem, such as the Saigon River tunnel and the Ba Son and Thu Thiem Bridges.

In future a pedestrian bridge and two bridges to districts 7 and 4 are set to be built, but nothing is planned to be built from the city center.

"This hinders and unbalances the urbanization process on both sides of the river, especially on the Thu Thiem peninsula," Trang said.

One or two bridges for pedestrians and cyclists from its downtown area would have a positive impact on connectivity, she said.

But at this point the river is quite wide at around 250 meters, wider than the Singapore River and double that of the Seine in France, and so a good idea would be to connect either bank with garden islands built on the river, she said.

The consortium said the islands could either be fixed in place or allowed to float in areas with slow flows and where their impact on shipping would be minimal.

Perspective of the pedestrian bridges connecting to the garden island on the Saigon River. Photo: Consulting consortium

An artist's impression of pedestrian bridges connecting with garden islands on the Saigon River. Photo courtesy of the French consulting consortium

The islands could have cafes, restaurants and swimming pools, it said.

"The proposal we present is based on the principle of respecting natural conditions, pursuing a long-term development vision, and ensuring open-ended planning."

Trang said: "Studies of models and international experience show constructing floating island gardens on the Saigon River will have a positive impact on nature, helping the river environment develop more sustainably. When island gardens are created, they contribute to natural rehabilitation, providing shade for an area that is hot and lacking in greenery."

If, on the islands, the city plants trees capable of filtering water through their roots like those on floating gardens in the Chicago River in the U.S., they would improve water quality and provide a natural protective barrier, she said.

Floating islands do not change the flow of water much, she said.

The Saigon River flows through the center of Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

The Saigon River flows through the center of Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

The 256-km Saigon River flows 80 km through HCMC.

But developments along it have mostly been haphazard, and the consortium's plan aims to coordinate efforts along the river.

HCMC is making changes to its general road map for until 2040, with the river becoming a new centerpiece.

In June last year the secretary of the city Party Committee, Nguyen Van Nen, and others visited the Seine River in France to study how the areas along it have been developed.

Speaking about benefits the city and its residents could expect from creating the garden islands, Trang said: "The strong attraction the central areas of the Seine and the Thames River in London has for tourists is evidence of the economic and social benefits generated when riverbanks are well developed and connected."

The consortium said the city should smartly design the floating islands to minimize their impact on navigation.

It suggested building the islands near the Thu Thiem side where the flow is slower and the water is shallower, meaning they would not affect boat traffic.

Trang pointed out that everything is still in the strategic development phase, and feasibility studies, funding strategies, and methods for future operation and management need to be worked out.

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