Sunday, April 27, 2008

Will HCMC’s soul survive the urbanization process?

In all the discussion about Ho Chi Minh City’s planned transformation into a super metropolitan area, not much thought seems to have gone into protecting the city’s image.
The city’s top scholars on Thursday gathered for a conference titled “Analyzing urbanization in Saigon-HCMC from historical and cultural viewpoints,” organized by the HCMC Institute of Social Research and Nguoi Do Thi (City Dwellers) magazine.
Nguyen Huu Nguyen, an expert from the institute, joked that “HCMC looks like a big mess if you take a look from the plane during a clear day.”
“A mess” isn’t too far from reality though.
At the conference, the scholars kept bringing up the same old bugbears: unfinished construction sites, uncontrolled traffic, constant flooding and air pollution.
Le Van Thanh, from the HCMC Institute for Economic Research, said most experts were unable to develop a zoning plan that would preserve the city’s unique essence.
According to Thanh, some cities around the world have gone through major transformations but following certain themes – such as making their cities green, touristy or global.
Assistant professor Phan Xuan Bien, head of the city’s Committee for Ideology and Culture, said when transforming a city, officials needed to heed how the essence of the city will be altered by urbanization.
Mai Thi Que, from the HCMC Institute of Social Research, said HCMC was already undergoing changes as huge numbers of migrants from other provinces flock to the former Saigon.
Most experts at the seminar said city officials need to do more than focus on approving the zoning plans.
They also need to consider programs to educate residents about behaving well in public and preserving the city’s green outlook.
News of Vietnam’s major metropolitan areas being expanded, provinces being merged and new housing centers and hotel complexes being built constantly hit the headlines.
In the process of economic development, all major cities must go through major transformation.
It’s up to the people of HCMC to decide whether the transformation will merely upgrade the city or whether it will alter the residents in the process.
Post a Comment