Human activities threaten Saigon River: experts

By Thu Hang   April 23, 2022 | 11:00 pm PT
Human activities threaten Saigon River: experts
Aerial view of a section of the Saigon River running through HCMC, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
The Saigon River, despite its historical importance and and economic potential, is threatened with erosion, pollution and human encroachment, experts say.

At a Friday conference on infrastructure planning to better utilize the Saigon River, architect Ho Viet Vinh said the river faced numerous threats including erosion, salt intrusion and pollution.

"The Saigon River is no longer pristine; it is changing. If we don't intervene, in just another quarter of a century people wouldn't like to have anything to do with it," he said.

"The city is turning its back on the river, even though it gave us life. It is disrespectful to mistreat such a legacy."

Echoing Vinh, deputy chairman of the HCMC Urban Planning Development Association Nguyen Minh Hoa said there would be "catastrophe in the future" if the Saigon River wasn't treated right.

The Saigon River, spanning 256 km, begins in Binh Phuoc and runs through Tay Ninh, Binh Duong and HCMC. There are 47 factories, industrial parks and other production facilities in the upstream section of the river that pose serious pollution risks. The river section running through HCMC alone has 56 points of encroachment that greatly impacts the entire river, said Hoa.

Nguyen Thanh Nha, director of the HCMC Department of Planning and Architecture, said the southern city was looking to develop spaces along the river, but it would take time before the plan is entirely mapped out.

Tremendous value

Experts believe the Saigon River holds tremendous economic value but HCMC has to figure out how to properly conserve and utilize it. Hoa said the river has the potential to be as iconic as the Chao Phraya River in Thailand’s Bangkok, the Huangpu River in China’s Shanghai or the Moskva River in Russia.

Hoa noted that the Chao Phraya section running through Bangkok, which spans 33 km, has 34 ports, which are great sources of income and locations for tourism and entertainment.

"The Chao Phraya has become Bangkok’s economic, commercial and cultural legacy. The Saigon River can follow suit as well," said Hoa, adding that there could be ecological villages and other similar developments along the river so that people can lend a hand in preserving and developing it.

However, for this to happen, HCMC needs to have a "development philosophy" of comprehensive planning, instead of dividing land plots for separate projects, Hoa stressed.

Vinh estimated that there could be around 800 ha of riverine land that planners can earmark for development.

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