Revive the ‘dead’ canal in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City

After 22 years of being filled, the Hang Bang canal, nearly two kilometers long, flowing through districts 5 and 6, is gradually restored with clear blue water and open parks on both sides.

For the past few months, every afternoon, Mr. Tran Tuan Thanh, 36 years old, living in District 6, has bought 9-10 bags of bran powder to the Hang Bang canal, about 300 m long, near his house, and sprinkled it down to feed the fish. Under the water, catfish, tilapia, persimmon… in dense flocks, continuously emerge to grab the bait.

Once a black canal, then filled with rows of houses, Thanh did not think that one day the Hang Bang canal would be opened with clear blue water, surrounded by open-air parks on both sides. “The canal has been restored in sections for a few years now, the water is clean, so people often come to release fish,” Thanh said.

Mr. Tran Tuan Thanh, bought bran powder to feed the fish at the section of Hang Bang canal after renovating the section near Phan Van Khoe street, District 6, the afternoon of May 15.  Photo: Gia Minh
Mr. Tran Tuan Thanh, bought bran powder to feed the fish at the section of Hang Bang canal after renovating the section near Phan Van Khoe street, District 6, the afternoon of May 15. Photo: Gia Minh

Having been associated with Hang Bang canal for more than 40 years, since the water was still blue, people often go out to relax in the afternoon, Mr. Nguyen Phong, 65 years old, said the canal was often called Bai Say canal by people. . Because the canal is located near Binh Tay and Kim Bien markets, people from all over the world constantly flock here to live and trade. Along the canal, many makeshift houses sprang up. Domestic garbage and waste are discharged directly into the canal, making the water stream more and more polluted.

In 2000, the section between Hang Bang canal from Binh Tien street to Pham Dinh Ho, about 600 m long, was heavily polluted, so the Ho Chi Minh City government had to fill it up and install box culverts. After that, people built houses on both sides, so the canal was only a cement walkway about 3m wide in the middle. In addition to the sluice construction, the two ends of the canal are still kept but encroached on, so it is only about 2 m wide, the water stream is seriously polluted with all kinds of waste.

Fifteen years after filling, Ho Chi Minh City decided to restore Hang Bang canal to drain water for the area, reduce pollution, and combine relocation and resettlement for households living on both sides. This is also part of the project to improve the water environment in Ho Chi Minh City, which has been implemented since 2015.

The section of Hang Bang canal after completion.  Photo: Quynh Tran
The section of Hang Bang canal after completion. Photo: Quynh Tran

The city’s plan to “revive” the canal is divided into three phases. The first phase was completed in 2017 with a cost of about 300 billion VND, mainly compensation and site clearance. The construction unit has excavated and dredged more than 24,000 m3 of soil from the previous houses and road surface leveling into the canal. Up to now, the two ends of the canal, nearly 400 m long, have been restored and a new pumping station was built on Phan Van Khoe street.

Phase two from Mai Xuan Thuong street to Van Tuong canal, 750 m long is being implemented with a budget of more than 178 billion VND. The construction unit will make a trapezoidal open canal, the channel surface is 12 m wide, and the bottom is 4 m wide and 4.5 m deep. The two banks of the park will be built with a drainage system along Phan Van Khoe and Bai Say streets to replace the old sewer. In addition, the surrounding roads have also been upgraded and renovated… To serve the project, there are 472 cases of clearing clearance, of which District 6 accounts for the majority with 344 households, the total compensation cost is nearly 1,200 billion dong.

Mr. Nguyen Vinh Ninh, Deputy Director of the Management Board of Traffic Works Construction Investment Project (investor), said that the part of the project passing through District 6 has completed the construction of the section from Chu Van An to Ngo Nhan street. The net is about 100 meters long, including the canal and the park above it. The rest, the locality has just allocated the ground on Bai Say road, while the opposite side is the unfinished Phan Van Khoe route. Therefore, in the past time, the contractor has only constructed half of the canal. Meanwhile, in District 5, the compensation work is very slow due to land legal problems.

According to the investor, the lengthy ground clearance, in addition to affecting the project progress, also incurs construction costs, so the unit has asked the two localities to accelerate. After completing the second phase, the project will construct the section from Binh Tien to Pham Dinh Ho, 750 m long, with a construction cost of about 198 billion VND. The construction unit also dredged and restored the open canal, at the same time made embankments, parks and renovated the surrounding area…

People walking and strolling along Hang Bang canal, District 6, after completing the renovation, on the afternoon of May 15.  Photo: Gia Minh
People walked and strolling along the Hang Bang canal, District 6, after completing the renovation, on the afternoon of May 15. Photo: Gia Minh

According to statistics from the Institute of Science, Technology and Environmental Management, in Ho Chi Minh City, there are about 100 canals that have been leveled and disappeared in the process of urbanization with a total area of ​​more than 4,000 hectares. Many large canals are now installed with box culverts into roads such as part of Tan Hoa canal (Binh Tan district), Nhieu Loc (Tan Binh district section)…

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ho Long Phi, former director of the Center for Water Management and Climate Change at the Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City, said that Hang Bang is one of the rare canals that has been restored after a long time of leveling. Natural canals, in addition to helping to prevent flooding, also play the role of storing water and regulating the environment. The leveling of canals to place box culverts is unnatural, resulting in flooding and increasing pollution.

“Many big cities like Seoul in South Korea previously had a similar situation of filling up canals for urban development, but they soon realized the negative impact, so they are gradually recovering,” Phi said. and suggested that Ho Chi Minh City should continue to open up other channels.

In the urban embellishment and development plan of HCMC for the 2021-2025 period and the following years, the city aims to complete compensation and relocate 6,500 houses on and along the canals, with a total capital need of more than 19,200 billions dong. This is also a dual goal to help solve water drainage, improve the environment, and embellish urban areas in the area…

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