HCMC population boom hurting residents’ quality of life

Many people from other provinces flock to Ho Chi Minh City in search of work. (Photo: SGGP)

Ho Chi Minh City’s population has seen a dramatic spike in recent years, causing a host of social and infrastructure problems.

The boom has strained city roadways to the maximum, leading to more frequent flooding and worse traffic jams, and has also lowered the standard of living for many residents.

On a section of Hoang Bat Dat Street in Tan Binh District’s Ward 15, around 1,000 out-of-town boarders rent rooms. Each room has an area of less than 10 square meters yet houses five to six people.

There are a total of 3,000 rooms for rent in the entire ward, providing places for 20,000 people. Most of these people have flocked to the city from northern, central, and western provinces in search of work.

Pham Van Hai, from Quang Ngai Province, said he and his family moved to HCMC seven years ago when rental rates were only around VND400,000 per room a month. Today, however, rates are around VND700,000.

Tan Binh District resident Tran Thi Muoi rents out 38 rooms for boarders on Cong Lo Street in Ward 15. Muoi said there are currently around 150 people from different provinces staying in the rooms. The renters are often charged double the rate for electricity and water since there are so many people sharing a room and using utilities.

Tan Phu District’s Tay Thanh Ward has also seen a sharp population rise. Census figures from April of last year showed an increase of 5,000 people over figures from 2008.

In the past, Tay Thanh Ward’s population hovered around 30,000 people. But its population shot up to nearly 47,000 in just a few years. This figure does not include an additional 30,000 workers employed in industrial zones and 15,000 students at universities and colleges in the area.

There were 40,000 people in Go Vap District’s Ward 12 when it was established. But its population has now grown to more than 120,000 people over the past few years, of which two thirds have moved from outside the city. Many such individuals sell land illegally and build houses without permission, causing a reduction in agricultural area.

And inner-city districts are not the only areas showing rapid growth. The population in District 12’s Hiep Thanh Ward has risen by 10,000 people on average each year for the last three years. The ward’s current population is now 70,000, of which new residents from outside the city account for 60 percent.

HCMC’s population is set to rise even further as two new housing projects with capacity for more than 18,000 people are currently under construction.

In addition, local authorities are in the process of changing a 250-hectare industrial zone and a 50-hectare area of reserved land into new residential areas.

The population in the city’s Hiep Thanh Ward in particular, is expected to shoot up markedly within the next three years.

Population growth in other wards in District 12, including: An Phu Dong, Thoi An, and Tan Thoi Hiep, is also increasing at an alarming rate.

In Go Vap District’s Ward 12, the population has grown so fast that its infrastructure has failed to keep pace, leading to a poor standard of living in the area.

At the beginning of the 2009 school year, An Hoi Elementary School in the district’s Ward 12 had to hold classes for 60-70 students at a time despite a regulation from the Ministry of Education and Training that there should only be 30-40 pupils per class.

Schools in Tay Thanh Ward, meanwhile, are only able to provide classes for one third of students in the area so thousands of others have been forced to go to school elsewhere.

Ward 15 is the most crowded in Tan Binh District and although local authorities have pumped more money into the area’s infrastructure, it has not been enough.

Pham Phu Dung, chairman of the ward People’s Committee, said there are 52,000 people in the ward. Of this number, more than 20,000 people have moved to HCMC from elsewhere.

Meanwhile, there are just two elementary schools and one nursery school in the area. Junior and high school students have to study outside of the ward.

City medical facilities are also desperately overcrowded. There are just 4-5 healthcare workers at District 12’s Hiep Thanh Ward Medical Center to treat nearly 70,000 people. Because the workload is so large, treatment quality also suffers.

By Minh Ngoc, Tran Yen – Translated by Thuy Doan

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