Saigon's first metro line steams through city's green canopy

By Quynh Tran   June 24, 2017 | 11:49 pm PT
Then and now: How the city center has been transformed.

Ho Chi Minh City has axed 150 trees on several downtown streets since 2014 to make way for its first metro line.

The most recent felling was on Le Loi Street in District 1, where 27 towering trees were lopped down earlier this month.

Replanting is not an option for most of the trees because it would be too expensive or they are simply too old to survive the process.

While evidence of the large-scale disappearance of green spaces can be seen from above, the before-and-after images below show the drastic changes the project has made at the city’s most famous landmarks.

The century old square of Quach Thi Trang was laid out in 1914 by the French colonial government. Located in front of the popular Ben Thanh market, for decades it was the city’s iconic landscape with a garden and a statue of 15th-century Vietnamese general Tran Nguyen Han at the center.

Its roundabout has been demolished recently for the construction of an underground station in the railway line. It will be transformed into a modern-style square in 2020, according to the city’s plan.

The nearby Ben Thanh bus station has also been moved to Ham Nghi Street last April. Merged with a piece of September 23rd Park, the space is set up for an underground plaza that is now still under construction.

51 trees in the September 23rd Park were felled in October 2016. Some of them were reported to be moved elsewhere.

The end of the backpacker street of Pham Ngu Lao is now walled in for construction.

Towering trees standing in front of the city’s Opera House were chopped down in July 2014. The area is now closed for construction of a station.

The green intersection of Le Loi-Nguyen Hue streets has also been eliminated behind the blue fence.

The latest sacrifice involved 27 trees on Le Loi Street to make space for the construction of a 320-meter underground tube linking the stations in Ben Thanh and the Opera House.

According to the Metro plan, new trees will be planted above the downtown stations when the train is put into operation in 2020.

Estimated to cost $2.49 billion, the line will run underground from Ben Thanh Market for 2.6 km past the Opera House and Ba Son Shipyard, and then cross the Saigon River on an elevated track to the neighboring provinces of Binh Duong and Dong Nai.

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