Guess how many people are jamming into Saigon? Hint: It's as bad as Tokyo

By Vi Vu   August 16, 2017 | 10:07 pm PT
The city leader is blaming its rapidly rising population, far outstripping the 2025 projection, for exacerbating traffic chaos.

Crowds of people on Nguyen Hue walking street in the city's downtown. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen

Media reports have been referring to Saigon as a megacity with a population of 12 million for over a year now, but the actual number is even higher, according to the latest official data.

Mayor Nguyen Thanh Phong said at a meeting on Wednesday that there are now 13 million people living in the city, Vietnam’s largest and economic hub.

Phong said the number is far beyond the population forecast of 10 million for 2025, which apparently only factored in registered residents who now number more than eight million.

The city’s population is expanding faster than expected due to the 130,000 migrants who are arriving every year, he said.

The city is now packed with 6,200 people per square kilometer, which is as dense as Tokyo (6,158 people per square meter.) Vietnam's average population density is 300 people per square kilometer, while the global average is 57, according to the World Bank.

“The rising population is exerting huge pressure on infrastructure development,” Phong said.

There are now 7.6 million motorbikes and 700,000 cars in the city, with an average of 1,000 new vehicles hitting the streets every day, a rate that road expansion cannot keep up with, he said.

Phong made the statement a month after the city announced plans to curb personal vehicles, including a ban on motorbikes in downtown streets by 2030. Cars will not be subject to this blanket ban, according to the plan.

Looking at its constantly jammed streets, traffic is obviously one of the biggest problems in Saigon, which is putting its people in choking air.

A government report released last month showed that air pollution in Saigon is breaching acceptable levels.

Surveys of pollution in the city between 2012 and 2016 found the concentration of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5), a fraction of the width of a human hair which is released by vehicles, industry and natural sources like dust, exceeded safe levels 20 percent of the time.

PM2.5 can get into the lungs and cause a number of diseases, including lung cancer.

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