HCMC officials not keen on city expansion

By Thien Ngon   October 12, 2018 | 01:37 am PT
HCMC officials not keen on city expansion
Traffic on Duong Ba Trac Street in Ho Chi Minh City in September, 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa
An expert says HCMC needs to become bigger to tackle several ongoing problems, but municipal authorities are not enthused.

Tran Ngoc Chinh, chairman of Vietnam Urban Planning and Development Association, said Ho Chi Minh City, the biggest in Vietnam, has great economic, cultural and social significance, but it is struggling with overpopulation, overloaded infrastructure, flooding, traffic jams and other problems.

In order to deal with these problems, the city should be expanded by at least 600 square kilometers (nearly 150,000 acres), Chinh said at a meeting with the city’s authorities on Thursday.

“The direction of the extension can be made towards the city’s southern neighbor, Long An Province,” he said.

Chinh proposed that the city should take several border districts of Long An.

But Nguyen Thien Nhan, the city’s Party Secretary, said “the city will not seek to extend its limits but has to use what it has right now in a more effective way.”

Nhan noted that HCMC has five districts that are very small and the smallest one, District 4, close to the downtown, measures only five square kilometers while Can Gio District on the outskirts is 140 times bigger.

While Can Gio houses only 70,000 residents, districts in the downtown are home to 600,000 each.

Together, Can Gio and Cu Chi, a suburban district to the northwest, have an area of 1,140 square kilometers, more than half of the city’s total area, but they are home to a population of only 900,000, or less than 10 percent of the total, he said.

“The administrative planning HCMC is applying is extremely divisive. The city must find effective and practical solutions to use the land in its downtown area and outskirts more reasonably,” he said.

Former Deputy Party Secretary Pham Chanh Truc said the city has overly centralized its development planning, as all major activities and infrastructure developments are in Districts 1 and 3 in the downtown area.

“That kind of urban planning is a mistake, a serious one,” Truc said.

He said HCMC should make itself a multiple-centered city, so that its residents can work and entertain themselves near their homes, instead of having to travel a long distance to the downtown area, as they have been doing for years.

“Once the city does this, it would be much easier to tackle urban flooding and traffic congestion,” Truc added.

HCMC is home to 13 million people including migrants. 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.

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