High ranking dignitaries including President Truong Tan Sang and former president Tran Duc Luong yesterday joined residents in applauding the transformation of one of HCM City's most polluted canals into a picturesque waterway.
|A photo shows the new look of a stretch of Tan Hoa - Lo Gom Canal after the canal underwent a comprehensive clean-up in HCM City. — Photo zing.vn|
HCM City Mayor Le Hoang Quan and World Bank Country Director Victoria Kwakwa were also among those attending the inauguration of the upgraded Tan Hoa – Lo Gom Canal.
The 7.5km long canal that flows through districts 6, 11, Tan Phu and Tan Binh has undergone a comprehensive clean-up and facelift, lifting the living conditions for 1.2 million residents living on its banks, as also city residents as a whole.
The US$528 million upgrade took over 1,300 engineers and workers working day and night for over three years. Its completion six months ahead of schedule has allowed the inauguration ceremony to be part of activities being held in HCM City to celebrate the 40th anniversary of South Viet Nam Liberation and National Reunification.
The project broke ground at the end of 2011, aiming to upgrade more than 10 kilometres of canals and sewers, building 12km of roads, and building and upgrading 12 bridges and four parks along the canal.
World Bank loans provided $266.7 million of the total funds, $1 million was granted by the bank as non-refundable aid, and the remaining was covered by the State Budget.
As part of the project, 63,000 households living along the canal were able to access loans to repair their homes and running their own business.
During the inauguration ceremony, Quan, Chairman of HCM City People's Committee, said the project, which would directly benefit 470,000 people living along the canal, was the most important of the urban upgrades undertaken by the city.
With the project's completion, HCM City had made significant headway in cleaning up three of its most seriously polluted canals – the Tan Hoa – Lo Gom, Tau Hu - Ben Nghe, and Nhieu Loc – Thi Nghe, Quan said.
Le Thanh Liem, director of the City Urban Upgrading Project Management Board and project investor, said it would improve living conditions of local citizen by reducing flooding, environmental pollution, traffic jams as well as social evils in the area.
Besides improving the environment, the project would help alleviate poverty in the area, Liem said.
The project involved the installation of sewers, dredging up the canal to detoxify and help reduce flooding, and the installation of 45 water-draining sluices with "anti-tide valves" that would mitigate the impacts of high tides.
The World Bank's Victoria Kwakwa was full of praise for the project: "Not only have you created a world class example of best practice in urban upgrading, but you have done it in record time – in only a third of the time that was needed for the Nhieu Loc – Thi Nghe Canal.
"Without your perseverance and without the strong and continued support of the HCM City People's Committee and Chairman Le Hoang Quan, we would not be here today to celebrate this achievement."
The canal, together with other infrastructure constructed under the Viet Nam Urban Upgrading Project, was already having a transformational impact on the city, she said
Nguyen Thi Sang, who had to relocate for the project, recalled that the environment was seriously polluted in the area. The stink and flooding of streets and houses with sewer water had badly affected her family when they lived there. The family was allocated a new apartment in Vinh Loc Ward, Binh Tan District.
"I am very happy to see the environment improved on the canal. In order to help the canal revive, I hope every body stops throwing rubbish into the canal," Sang said.
Cao Thi Dung, 60, who has been residing near the canal since she was born, was overjoyed at the implementation and completion of the project. She had seen the environment in her neighbourhood worsen over the years.
"When I was a child, the canal was clean. Other children and I could even swim in it. The canal became seriously polluted in recent decades after some industrial parks were built. The canal was wide, but locals encroached on it to take land for building houses."
Dung said that the environment was much better now. "Before the canal was upgraded, my house was under sewer water every time there was a high tide, and our daily life was badly affected. The canal is better now, but there is still foul odor, I hope the city government can make the water fresh and pure."
Upgrading canals is one of five major components of HCM City's urban upgrade project being implemented with support from the World Bank. As of December 2014, roughly 166,000 metres of sewers, 8,200 metres of canals canals and 203,000 metres of roads had been improved or newly constructed in the city.
Beside HCM City, Hai Phong in the north, Nam Dinh in central region, and Can Tho in Mekong Delta have been selected by the World Bank for urban upgrade loans.
It is estimated that more than 7.5 million people in the four cities have been the direct and indirect beneficiaries of the Viet Nam Urban Upgrading Project that has been implemented over the last 10 years.