Clearing some, filling up some: HCMC's odd way with canals

By Dinh Son, Thanh Nien News

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Part of a housing project that encroaches the Ca Cam Canal in District 7, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dinh Son Part of a housing project that encroaches the Ca Cam Canal in District 7, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dinh Son


While Ho Chi Minh City has been making efforts to clean up its polluted canals, some construction works are filling up others.
Riviera Point, a joint venture between the city-based Tan Truong Company and a Singaporean partner, has built an apartment block of which nearly 5,000 square meters is in Ca Cam canal close to the local government office in District 7.
Its construction began in early 2012, but the fill-up of the canal was only discovered a year later when state auditors checked land use in the area and informed the city government of the encroachment.
Authorities are investigating the violations even as locals have been suffering from severe flooding for some time.
Locals said the construction has narrowed the canal resulting in flooding during rains.
“The rain water used to run off very fast but not since the construction,” a local said.
But the government does not just overlook canal encroachment; it is an active participant in some places.
In Nha Be District for instance state-owned fuel distributor Petrolimex Saigon has built facilities in a 20-meter-wide canal.
Local officials said they knew nothing about the construction until locals complained about unusual flooding every time it rained.
Nguyen Huu Anh, the district’s chief urban management official, said his office was not allowed to inspect the construction in the first place and thus had no idea it would extend into the canal.
“The filling could have happened in 2013.”
A real estate company also encroached on nearly 12,000 square meters of the same canal, a tributary of the Nha Be, a major river in the south.
The city government in 2004 issued regulations for waterway protection that include a ban on construction over rivers and canals.
Official statistics show more than 40 square kilometers in around 100 canals and other water bodies have been filled up as a result of urbanization.
The city has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to revive the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe, Tan Hoa-Lo Gom and U Cay canals, clearing houses along them to fix pollution and flooding.
It has also kicked off a VND2 trillion ($93.6 million) project to dig up the Hang Bang Canal, which was filled up 15 years ago, to reduce pollution and flooding.
The canal runs through districts 5 and 6. A 600-meter section of was filled up in 2000 after it became severely polluted.

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