Thứ Ba, 29 tháng 3, 2016

Footpath upgrade in Ho Chi Minh City proves controversial

Sections of the granite sidewalks on Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, Ho Chi Minh City, are now in bad condition.Tuoi Tre
A recently announced plan to improve the sidewalks of 134 streets in downtown Ho Chi Minh City has met with mixed reactions.
The People’s Committee of District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, made the announcement on Sunday of its scheme to spend VND1 trillion (US$45 million) paving the entire districts’ sidewalks with granite by the year 2019.
The cost of using granite is estimated to be two or three times higher than conventional tiles.
The People’s Committee of District 1 said it has filed the plan for approval at the city’s Transport Department, and will submit it to the municipal People’s Committee for revision next week.
The district administration added that the improvement scheme, if approved, would be launched simultaneously with other underground infrastructure projects in the area such as telecommunications, water supply, and electricity networks to avoid multiple disruptions.
According to the Division for Urban Management in District 1, the cost per 1m2 of granite pavement is VND2.9 million ($130), while that of terrazzo and worm bricks is VND1.2 million ($55) and VND800,000 ($35) respectively.
If everything goes as planned, within the third quarter of 2016 the district will begin renewing the footways on five major streets; Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Phung Khac Khoan, Cong Xa Paris, Dong Khoi, and Nguyen Thai Hoc at an estimated cost of VND90 billion ($4 million), followed by the others in subsequent years until 2019.
Apart from paving them, the district will also keep and grow green spaces on these sidewalks at an estimated cost of around VND1.2 million ($55) per square meter.
The People’s Committee of District 1 said it had prepared two plans to raise funds for the project, one being taking interest-free loans from businesses based in the district, the other calling for public investment, which will be paid off by allowing advertising billboards on these streets.
Speaking with Tuoi Tre (Youth) reporters, Chairman of the People’s Committee of District 1 Tran The Thuat said his district is leaning towards the former plan, saying, “Businesses had agreed to provide financial assistance worth VND1 trillion ($45 million) to execute the project."
A sanitation worker sweeps Le Thanh Ton Street, one of the two streets completely paved with granite in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre
However, the scheme immediately met with mixed expert and public opinions after the story made local headlines on Monday.
Dinh The Hien, who has a PhD in economics, said that the renewal of sidewalks is not necessarily urgent at the moment, in comparison with other problems in the city such as the lack of hospitals and schools.
“In my opinion, the infrastructure in downtown Ho Chi Minh City is already considered comparatively well maintained and in good condition,” Hien said.
“It’s repugnant to spend a thousand billion on replacing good sidewalks in central areas, while suburban districts are suffering from a lack of schools and hospitals,” Hien added.
Offering a more moderate view, Nguyen Truong Luu, chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Association of Architects, compared District 1 to the living room of a house, which should be taken care of to make a good impression on visitors.
However, Luu added that “granite is very durable, so it should only be used on streets which possess a developed and stable infrastructure such as Nguyen Hue Avenue."
Lam Thieu Quan, a councilor at the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Council, said every penny spent should be taken into serious consideration when the city’s budget is limited.
“Instead of using the sum on paving new sidewalks, I think it would be better to improve our traffic facilities to solve worsening congestion in the city,” Quan said.
Meanwhile, citizens living in downtown areas of Ho Chi Minh City did not seem so thrilled about the project either.
“I think there are definitely more urgent problems with the city’s infrastructure than sidewalks which need to be tackled, such as tidal flooding and traffic congestion,” said 52-year-old Do Thanh Van.
“Not to mention granite is super slippery, which can be unsafe for pedestrians,” he added.
Duong Minh Hai, a resident on Dong Khoi Street, said, “Granite is not really an economical choice when people’s awareness about preserving public property is still limited. With motorbikes and cars running on the sidewalks every day, they will degrade very quickly.”
Granite has been used on the sidewalks of Nguyen Van Troi and Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Streets, with slip-and-fall accidents reported during the rainy season and certain sections in poor condition.

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