A boardwalk along a famed river in central Vietnam is slated to officially open on October 30 as a novel tourist attraction, but questions have been swirling around its construction and quality.
Residents in Thua Thien-Hue Province are being captivated by a nearly completed 400-meter-long, four-meter-wide wooden esplanade a little off the bank of the Huong (Perfume) River, the largest waterway that traverses the area and is frequently featured in Vietnamese poetry and music.
The walkway, whose construction started in February, stands roughly one meter over the water.
It has copper rails and planks made of valuable timber imported from South Africa, with the wood alone costing around VND5.7 billion ($245,000).
It is one part of a grand project on refashioning the riverbanks financed by the Korea International Cooperation Agency, an organization that the South Korean government hopes can forge ties with developing countries through grants.
Many Thue Thien-Hue locals were recently seen strolling on the walkway and doing physical exercise at sunset and twilight while young people came here to take photographs as the path, they said, boasts a beauty and strangeness that distinguish it from all other above-water structures like bridges in the province.
But they may not be aware of a debate surrounding the VND64 billion ($2.8 million) promenade, which will be equipped with lights according to the plan.
Phan Thuan An, a researcher from the provincial capital of Hue, which was once the national capital in Vietnam’s last feudal dynasty, said the path is “a devastation to the Huong river-scape.”
An considers it as a regrettable structure, citing the scenario that the esplanade could well be immersed when tides rise and cause regular flooding yearly.
“In that case, the electricity system, wood and bottom of the boardwalk would be damaged, and who will be held responsible when electricity runs out of the wire and cause consequences?” An said.
The structure is rendering a bank of the river more prone to erosion and may accumulate floating garbage underneath, with a stench resulting in high tide, he added.
No worries about electric problems should arise as was implied by Van Viet Thanh, head of a construction firm in Thua Thien-Hue, who said issues about the esplanade’s use and maintenance have been thoroughly considered.
Floods would become far less frequent now because a reservoir has been built upstream, Thanh underlined.
Investors and relevant agencies have come up with solutions to rubbish stuck under the walkway, he said.
Architect Huynh Quang supports the construction of the walkway but he suggests greater deliberation on how to use it properly.
But trouble comes from the wood itself.
A short time after planks were laid on the boardwalk, cracks appeared, forcing scores of pieces of wood to be replaced.
Some experts warn the climate in Thua Thien-Hue tends to cause damage to the South African lumber but Nguyen Viet Bang, head of a local urban management department, said the material can withstand a mixture of heat and dampness in the area.