After a year that witnessed a radical sidewalk cleanup campaign in Ho Chi Minh City, authorities have decided to soften their stance on the issue of people and businesses that encroach on the pavements, but with certain conditions, a city leader said on Wednesday.
Deputy Chairman of HCMC Tran Vinh Tuyen said at a meeting that the sidewalks are a very complicated matter.
“Sidewalks are like golden land,” he said. “Everyone is eyeing them, and if we loosen control just a bit they will be snapped up by one person or another.”
However, although the city believes that sidewalks should be for pedestrians, it will temporarily allow people to use the space for other purposes, he said.
Those given the right to use the sidewalks for purposes such as parking lots will have to take responsibility for maintaining traffic safety, among other things.
He said this management structure will be “fairer and more practical” than asking the whole community to voluntarily protect the sidewalks.
Tuyen's statement comes soon after Doan Ngoc Hai, the de facto frontman of the city’s sidewalk campaign, stood down as deputy chairman of District 1 having failed to complete his mission.
Hai started the sidewalk campaign in early 2017 with a pledge to turn the central district into a “Little Singapore”. His team put up barriers and deployed police officers to stop motorbikes from driving on the sidewalks. During the crackdown, vehicles, including government and foreign diplomatic cars, were towed, and invasive constructions that spilled out onto the street, some of which belonged to five-star hotels, were dismantled.
He gained widespread public support, except from street vendors who were seen crying and yelling after police seized their food stands.
Hai said in his letter that his campaign had collided with businesses that had million-dollar interests on the sidewalks, and a large number of officials backing them.
The mission needed the support of the entire political system, which he did not receive, he said in his resignation letter submitted on Monday.
He was asked to abandon the campaign last October after District 1 decided to replace his daily patrols with a task force which only deals with sidewalk invasions following tip-offs.
Following Tuyen’s announcement, the task force will likely be disbanded as well.
Sidewalk invasions are one of the factors hindering traffic in HCMC, which has 30,000 new vehicles, including 4,500 cars, hitting its streets every month, officials said at the Wednesday meeting.
In 2017, the city’s transport department reported nine cases of heavy congestion when vehicles were stuck for more than an hour.
The 13-million strong city opened new overpasses and expanded roads to ease the problem last year, and has plans to continue the effort this year.
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