No green zone: Da Nang parks leave residents in concrete jungle

By Nguyen Dong   January 11, 2023 | 04:24 pm PT
Da Nang needs more greenspace and some of the parks it does have are falling into disrepair, residents and experts say.

Covering 20 hectares in downtown Thanh Khe District, March 29 Park was all but deserted last Sunday afternoon.

The playground at the park was locked up for maintenance.

The park has a zoo but the deer are locked away in a yard with several layers of iron fences, while some of the monkeys have been locked in their tiny cages for so long that they no longer even move.

Many of the entrances to the park have become areas for garbage collection. Children arriving at the front gate were disappointed to see their playground closed and were forced to play on the old, rusty gym equipment outside.

March 29th Park on January 8, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

March 29 Park in Da Nang is in a sad state of affairs on January 8, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

'So old'

Ha, 35, a woman from Ngu Hanh Son District, drove her two children over ten kilometers to the park.

As her eldest son participated in boy scouts' activities, her five-year-old son had to play on crumbling gym equipment. She did not dare to leave the child on his own, fearing that he would cut himself on the broken equipment.

"Everything is so old here and the park is not taken care of," she said. "There's no playground, so I had to take the children here," she continued from the park's cement walkway.

Nguyen Quang, 40, who lives in Son Tra District, said he used to take his two kids to the park regularly, but it's been a long time since they've returned.

He said the park is airy, but the garden design and the flowers are not beautiful, the lake is large but it is always occupied by fishermen and the cages where the animals are kept are cramped and smell awful.

Thanh Nien (Youth) Park, which spans the two districts of Hai Chau and Cam Le, is in the same sad state of affairs, with only a few dozen people visiting it every afternoon.

The restroom is not cleaned regularly and stinks, while trash is strewn all about the lake with bits of garbage floating on its surface.

Thanh Nien (Youth) Park on January 8, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

Thanh Nien (Youth) Park in Da Nang is almost empty on January 8, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

No money, no honey

Le Tu Gia Thanh, chairman of Hai Chau District, said the neighborhood around Youth Park is dense with residents, but the park does not have many activities to offer so no one comes for a visit. Plus, he added, much of the park's area is being used as a golf course, while two other large sections are now a container yard and a large lot used to sell bonsai trees.

"We need investment to ensure entertainment activities for young people and guarantee a quiet area for the elderly," he said.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Park in Hai Chau District, which was built when Da Nang – Vietnam's third most important city after Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City – hosted the 2017 APEC conference, is currently the most visited park in the city, but it takes up only 9,000 m2, although the city took over valuable commercial real estate land to expand it a year ago.

Parks in Da Nang are falling into disrepair, January 2023. Video by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

According to Vietnamese government standards, a "class-1" city such as Da Nang must have a green space ratio of 5sqm per person, but the current ratio is just more than half of that.

A class-1 city must have a population of one million, or 500,000 if administered by a province or city, a population density of at least 2,000 per square kilometer, and a non-farm-labor ratio of more than 65%. That figure must be up to 85% in the city's inner urban core.

It also has to meet certain infrastructural and architectural requirements.

Phung Phu Phong, director of the Da Nang's Construction Department, said the city has plans to renovate both March 19 and Youth parks, but it will cost at least VND700 billion ($29.87 million) for each and the city has yet to raise enough money to fund the undertaking.

As of 2019, Da Nang had a population of 1.13 million.

Official data shows the urban land area of Da Nang jumped from about 7,000 ha in 2005 to 12,502 ha in 2010, and then 18,396 ha in 2019, which is nearly four times the 1997 figure.

According to a plan approved last March, Da Nang's urban area will increase to 31,836 ha in 2030 and more than 35,000 ha in 2045, while housing a population of 1.79 million and 2.56 million, respectively.

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