Trees in front of the Saigon Opera House before being cut down to make way for the city's first underground metro station. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre
A Japanese joint-venture on Friday (July 25) started work on the first underground section the Ho Chi Minh City metro system.
Work began in August of 2012 on an 17.1-km elevated rail section that will link the underground station with District 9.
The Shimizu-Meada venture is expected to complete the 1.8-km underground section linking the Saigon Opera House station and the above-ground track near the Ba Son Shipyard next March.
The brief underground section, known as Contract 1B, will cost US$229.1 million and represents the beginning of the Ben Thanh - Suoi Tien metro system, which will run 19.7 kilometers between Ben Thanh Market in District 1 and Suoi Tien Park in District 9.
On July 22, city workers cut down 41 Hopea oderatea trees, some of which were a century old, in front of the Saigon Opera House to make way for the underground metro station.
The logging left city dwellers wondering why authorities hadn't just removed and relocated them.
Nguyen Van Dung, deputy director of the Urban Traffic Management Division No.1, which was tasked with felling the trees, said the roots had spread deep underground making a successful relocation unfeasible.
Their removal would, likewise, create destabilizing sink holes in the areas around the opera house.
He said after the Saigon Opera House station is finished, new trees will be planted to replace them.
The resulting timber will be sold to raise funds for the city budget, he said.