Filling canals to develop projects raises environmental concerns in Ho Chi Minh City

TTN -UPDATED : 06/22/2015 14:41 GMT + 7

A man rows his boat on Ca Cam Canal, with buildings of the Riviera Point project seen in the background, in Ho Chi Minh City. Tuoi Tre

While lowlands and canal systems are crucial for the drainage of Ho Chi Minh City, large areas of such land plots have been zoned for realty projects, whose developers do not hesitate to fill the waterways to serve construction.

The real estate developers, however, do not violate any laws in doing so as they have been allowed by local authorities to fill canals when obtaining the investment license.

In some projects, the developers are required to create lakes for water moderation to prevent flooding in case of heavy downpours, but not all businesses comply with the requirement.

Blocking waterway from waterway

Residents who live around the land plot zoned for the Riviera Point development in District 7 have to suffer frequent flooding whenever it rains, as five out of the six waterways that help drain the area have been filled up by the developer.

The waterways link the area with Ca Cam Canal, which has also been filled and become a construction site for the nine-hectare residential area project.

Riviera Point Co. Ltd. said it only builds what is approved in the investment license, and the District 7 administration has admitted fault in approving the project without asking the company to build a water moderation lake.

With the waterways blocked, rainwater has nowhere to run and the area floods whenever it rains.

Riviera Point Co. has suggested enlarging the sewage system of the area to help with the drainage, while local authorities said the developer must find a way to build a lake for water moderation.

Elsewhere, in District 9, Khang An Co. Ltd. has been allowed to fill part of the Ba Hien Canal and its sub-waterways to serve its namesake residential area project since 2003.

On June 14, Nam Phan JSC also started filling in another part of the Ba Hien Canal for its project.

Part of the filled Ba Hien Canal is seen in District 9, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

With the presence of the two projects, some locals said they have forgotten that there used to be a canal in the area.

The project developers, meanwhile, both said they were permitted by the city’s transport department to fill in the canal.

An Khang Co. was only asked to develop a “suitable drainage system” for the project, rather than building a water moderation lake.

“Neither the companies nor the local authorities had a vision about the water moderation lake then,” an official from the management board of the An Khang project admitted.

But it is now too late to back pedal, he added.

“Most of the land plots within the project have already found buyers so it is impossible to build a lake now,” he said.

Bad precedence

Local scientists have long warned that allowing realty projects to be developed in lowlands and filling in waterways prove to be one of the causes of severe flooding in Ho Chi Minh City.

Lowlands in such districts as Can Gio and Nha Be must be kept intact so they can act as natural places to store rainwater, according to an expert with the city’s anti-flooding center.

“A foreign expert once asked me why Ho Chi Minh City did not leave the lowlands untouched to nourish its environment, but approved construction projects to be built there instead,” an urban management official said.

Doctor Ho Long Phi, director of the center for water management and climate change under the Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh City, said allowing developers to fill in canals and build sewage lines as “compensation” will create a bad precedence.

“It’s like an excuse for the inappropriate act of filling canals,” he said.

“The canals serve the interest of the community, while the filled canals only do good for the developers.”

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