The removal of healthy green trees along Ho Chi Minh City’s promenades might be a sign that the ‘sidewalk clearing’ campaign underway in several districts is being taken a bit too literally.
Residents living in certain neighborhoods affected by Saigon’s sidewalk revolution are finding themselves longing for the shade from the trees that once lined their walkways and shielded them from the blistering sun.
Along many sections of the Provincial Highway 15 passing Trung An, Tan Thanh Dong, and Tan Thanh Tay Communes in the outlying Cu Chi District, a considerable number of trees are being chopped down to clear a path for pedestrians.
Tan Hue, a resident in Tan Thanh Tay, shared that local officials had asked her to remove a tree in front of her house or face a fine, despite the fact that the tree has been growing for over ten years.
The woman has planted another tree closer to the entrance of her house for shade.
Further down the road, trees of all shapes and sizes are being chopped down, despite being tall, healthy, and green.
Ly Thi Hoan, who lives in Tan Thanh Dong, complained that she was forced to chop down a tamarind tree planted by her grandmother about 40 years ago.
The plant has produced shade form passers-by for decades, Hoan said.
Nguyen Huu Hoai, chairman of the Cu Chi People’s Committee, stated that his orders are for local officers to only remove those trees that compromise sidewalk space or traffic safety.
Closer to the city center, on Nguyen Hoang Street in An Phu Ward, District 2, local residents were also surprised when trees started disappearing from their sidewalks.
The An Phu People’s Committee announced that residents living along the streets must remove all equipment, signage, and other objects that occupy sidewalk space, Ba, a local, stated, adding that the directive didn’t mention trees.
However, local officers recently ordered the removal of certain plants, though Pham Thanh Phuong, chairman of the An Phu administration, clarified that the ‘sidewalk reclamation’ effort only extends to flowerbeds and potted plants placed on the footpaths.
Only green trees planted in ways that take up significant space and pose as obstacles to pedestrians, have been removed, Phuong claimed.
Some trees that do not fall into the category have also been chopped down as they belong to certain banned species, the official explained.
Nguyen Trinh Kiem, a member of the Vietnam Parks and Greenery Association, believes chopping down trees for sidewalk space is a short-sighted approach.