"At present, choosing the place, shape and infrastructure for new urban areas depends on the inspiration of investors," said Pham Sy Liem, Director of Urban Research and Infrastructure Development Institute.
Liem said developers looked at the overall plans for the cities, selected areas they were interested in – and then decided themselves where and how to invest in new development.
He said public planners had no right to ask investors to modify their plans to suit local conditions because no criteria existed for creating new urban areas.
Liem said that apart from business centres, new urban areas should also embrace entertainment centres, hospitals, schools, parks and other basic infrastructure.
"People should have all their daily living needs satisfied in these new areas without having to drive their vehicles long distances," said Liem. "But, only one or two urban areas in Viet Nam meet this criteria."
This means, for example, that if people want to do aerobics, they have to go to one entertainment centre and if they want to see a movie, they may have to go to a cinema far away.
"The new urban areas offer no better solution to traffic and pollution problems than in the old areas," said Liem.
Learning by example
"Why don’t we learn from the new Phu My Hung urban area in HCM City instead of condemning it," said Liem, adding that criticism Phu My Hung had a bad effect on the city’s environment had not been proved scientifically.
However, national urban planning experts at a conference in Ha Noi on Wednesday agreed the development could serve as a role model for the future.
"It meets all the criteria for modern living and serves the needs of those living there. The residents only need to go for a walk to find all they want," said Liem.
Moreover, it enabled people to identify with their locality and enabled them to keep in contact with neighbours just by walking around, like in the older areas.
While some people complained that Phu My Hung led to the filling in of all the lakes and streams in the area, they were wrong, said Liem, because much had been retained so that people could still relate to the environment.
"Phu My Hung is a modern planning success and we should learn from it," he added. "If there is something wrong with the place, it should be blamed on public planners, not the investors, who should be praised for introducing such an enlightened concept to Viet Nam."
In Viet Nam, new roads and streets are built every day, but there is no macro plan to establish them. "Building roads is part of the process of urbanisation, but still they don’t seem to prevent traffic jams," said Liem
"I don’t know where the urban plans are, but I’ve never been stuck in so many traffic jams as at present," said Luong Xuan Duong, a resident on Thai Ha Street in Ha Noi.
Viet Nam is saddled with road systems established in the 1930s, when roads were divided into main thoroughfares and tributaries, said Liem. This means that all vehicles on branch roads converge on the main roads at the same time, especially in rush hour.
Nguyen Chi Thanh was once one of the main roads in Ha Noi. No one ever imagined it would ever suffer from traffic jams. Nevertheless, when vehicles from Chua Lang and Huynh Thuc Khang streets now try to enter it, traffic clogs up.
"In five years, maybe the newly opened Khuat Duy Tien-Tran Duy Hung crossroad and other major roads will suffer the same fate as the problematic O Cho Dua crossroad, where there are serious traffic jams every day," said Liem.
"Public planners have not built road systems to a perfect, chessboard-like grid (many interlocking main roads). If this had been done, there would be fewer traffic jams."
He said rampant construction of roads without proper planning would lead to more crossroads like O Cho Dua. Moreover, the area of land for traffic was too low, averaging just 5.8sq.m per person. This is only 20-25 per cent of the recommended international standard, said Nguyen Hong Thuc from the Settlement Research Institute.
Choking on fumes
On the subject of pollution, many rivers such as Dong Nai-Sai Gon, Vam Co Dong are choked with industrial waste, sewage and rubbish – a result of unplanned urbanisation.
It is estimated that about 20 per cent of industrial waste and 45 per cent of sewage and rubbish in most cities and towns in Viet Nam is discharged directly into the environment without treatment.
Then there is the huge problem of toxic exhaust gases from the multitude of motorcycles and cars and factories. By any standards, it exceeds the rate accepted as healthy for humans and the environment.
The amount of carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and nitric oxide filling the air in Ha Noi is much higher than the allowable rate, according to the Ha Noi Environment Resources and Land Department. Indeed, pollution in Ha Noi is three times higher than recommended world standards.
Each year, city air is filled with fumes from factories. This includes 80,000 tonnes of dust, 9,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide and 46,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide – not to mention exhaust smoke from 100,000 cars and one million motorbikes.
Getting our act together
"Human resources are the key to solving all these urbanisation problems," said Liem. "But we lack specialists who can draw-up plans."
"When anything goes wrong, everyone blames each other. Urbanisation is a synchronised process. We can’t just treat one element without considering all the others, like we do now," said Liem
Even decentralisation has its problems. In rural areas, just as much attention needs to be paid to planning. Well-qualified experts are needed to avoid poor outcomes, such as in Long An Province, where 15 golf courses were built at the same time.
"Unless urbanisation is brought under control with proper planning," Viet Nam will continue to repeat these mistakes," said Liem.
At present, the Government is preparing a comprehensive urban development strategy so that step-by-step planning is adapted to reality. — Source DiaOcOnline.vn