In Hotel, Travel | On 10-11-2011
Ho Chi Minh City is a big city and getting bigger, with all the usual growing pains. Though tourism arrivals are up 10 percent from 2010, of all the destinations in Vietnam, HCMC posted the smallest gains. Why? I dare say traffic and pollution have something to do with it. This city is one of Asia’s most dynamic, and it’s also bursting at the seams.
That’s not surprising. It’s been 150 years since French urban designers established the present footprint. Now, the People’s Committee is proposing major surgery. Last week, they released a 15-year master plan that, on face of it, is a breath of fresh air.
If all goes to schedule (which it won’t, but that’s all right) by 2025 there will be three metro lines, shuttling commuters (and travellers) easily about the city’s 19 districts. In fact, you may be able to buy a ticket on the city’s first metro line between District 1 and four other districts as soon as 2018.
|Thu Thiem, a new urban area
Besides the metro, the People’s Committee plans to build an elevated monorail, much like Bangkok’s popular BTS, to cut down on congestion and pollution. There is even a cable car system in the works.
According to the Japanese planners who’ve drafted the scheme, the city’s districts will be developed in line with various goals. Business travellers will find financial and trade centres in District 1 and 4, more residential housing will be built in Binh Thanh, a new science and technology area will emerge in District 9, the colonial villas of District 3 will remain the same, and District 1 will be reserved as the city’s cultural and heritage centre.
To connect all the dots, contractors are already beginning work on more bridges, wider, upgraded roads, and new railways, including one rumoured to clip the trip from HCMC to Nha Trang down to just two hours. (!)
Even more commendable than getting us to the beach on time, I’m heartened to see officials thinking one step ahead of the action. The People’s Committee has based their model on a city of 10 million in 2025, above the 7.2 million residents the Asian Development Bank estimates will occupy HCMC in 2020. The proposed anti-flooding and drainage systems will hopefully help us avoid situations like the one happening in Bangkok.
In all, we may be looking at the most ambitious urban planning project the city has seen since French colonisers laid out these streets. Of course, I’m prepared for not all of these designs to come true, but I’ll be thankful if most of them do. It’s high time HCMC got the transportation and infrastructure to adequately support its growing ambitions.