HCMC lacks the parks its population requires

By Ha An   May 24, 2020 | 03:16 am PT
HCMC lacks the parks its population requires
People are forced to exercise on pavements in HCMC's Binh Tan District due to its lack of public parks. Photo by VnExpress/Ha An.
Ho Chi Minh City's severe lack of public parks has forced citizens to improvise and adapt, but a 10-year project will try to change the situation.

Le Van Be, 65, was born and raised in HCMC's Binh Tan District. Every morning he wakes up at 4 a.m. and rides his bike around the Vinh Loc neighborhood, before coming to an empty land lot behind the Hoa Binh apartment complex in Binh Hung Hoa B Ward for more exercises.

It is 5:30 a.m., but the lot is as lively as ever. People are stretching and doing push-ups. Some have parked their motorbikes nearby before settling in for a meditation session.

But for Be and many other citizens, the situation is far from ideal. They've had to make use of the roads and pavements, even the yards of apartment complexes to engage in their simple exercises.

Be forcefully makes the point that Binh Tan, the most populated district in HCMC with around 784,000 people, does not have a single public park. Small and medium-sized parks in the district, spanning 1,000-10,000 square meters, all belong to private housing projects.

It's not just Binh Tan. The pattern is repeated in several other districts of the southern metropolis like 9, 12, Thu Duc, Nha Be and Hoc Mon. There is simply no large-sized public park for the people to use.

Authorities have been saying they will change this.

The city's urban plan says around 11,400 hectares would be reserved for public parks, which translates to around seven square meters of park per citizen. In reality, however, public parks in the city only cover a bit more than 500 hectares, or 0.55 square meters per citizen.

This is a stark contrast to the area reserved for public parks in other countries. Singapore, for example, has eight square meters of land reserved for parks and trees per citizen.

With only 1.54 hectares of public parks being added to the city each year, it will be a long time until HCMC can achieve its initial urban planning objective.

The municipal construction department has requested the People's Committee to approve a 10-year project to increase the coverage of public parks and trees in the city until 2030, with the goal of increasing their coverage area per capita to 0.65 square meters in 2025, and one square meter in 2030.

That way, the city expects to increase public park coverage by 650 hectares in the next 10 years. By 2025, downtown districts would plant an additional 30,000 trees, and an additional 50,000 by 2030.

To do that, the construction department will first take a look at all land slots reserved to build public parks in accordance with districts' urban planning project. Then depending on each land lot, the department would either suggest projects to build those parks or call for investors to do so.

The plan envisages multiple sources of funding for large-scale public parks (spanning more than 10 hectares). The main investors can integrate entertainment areas that collect fees within such projects, but the main area should be reserved for the park. Cafes, urinals, parking spaces and other similar structures must not change the main functions of the park.

Main investors in housing projects must also complete park and greenery projects on the scale determined in detailed plans. Investment projects that include public parks and greenery would benefit from certain incentives.

Learn from others

Besides domestic funding, HCMC would also need to learn from foreign organizations that are experienced in building and developing parks, the construction department has suggested.

Specifically, it advises the People's Committee to cooperate with Singapore's National Parks Board, a governmental agency that manages parks and greenery, to help training staffs and experts in planning, managing and maintaining parks.

In Binh Tan District, the plan is to convert the Binh Hung Hoa cemetery, which spans 16 hectares, into a public park within the next five years, said Nguyen Minh Nhat, deputy chairman of the People's Committee of the district.

That future park would be situated next to major roads, which would prove convenient for people to visit, exercise and perform other activities, he said.

Late last year, the municipal People's Committee has also approved a suggestion by the district commissioner and construction department of District 12 to build a park with trees in a 150-hectare land lot in Thanh Xuan and Thoi An wards.

Due to its large size, this park would be used both for recreational purposes and for regulating and storing water for the area.

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