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​Pulling down Saigon’s water towers: an inevitable move

​Pulling down Saigon’s water towers: an inevitable move

Saturday, December 23, 2017, 07:29 GMT+7

Realizing the potential dangers posed by run-down water towers located in several of the city’s residential areas, Ho Chi Minh City leaders have officially decided on a step-by-step approach to their imminent demise.

Thirty mushroom-shaped water reservoirs of varying sizes litter the city’s neighborhoods.  Several of them still operate while others collect rust and pose dangers to the residents who live in their shadows. Among these, seven have been selected for demolition by the city’s administration.

The first major water tower put up in the southern metropolis was constructed sometime between 1878 and1886 by Saigon Water Corporation (Sawaco) as a means to regulate the municipal water systems.

The tower gradually fell out of use following the construction of Thu Duc Water Treatment Plant in 1966 and was eventually labeled a cultural relic in 2014 by the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City.

Seven other major reservoirs sprung up during the three-year period from 1966 to 1969, though some were never put into operation due to design flaws and a lack of maintenance caused by the American war in Vietnam.

A 2009 inspection of the eight major reservoirs conducted by Saigon Construction Quality Control JSC, as commissioned by Sawaco, revealed rampant degradation in the quality and safety levels of the of the structures.

The top of the reservoir on Tran Van Trang District, District 1, has been pulled off. Photo: Tuoi Tre
The top of the reservoir on Tran Van Trang District, District 1, has been pulled off. Photo: Tuoi Tre

The findings were presented to the Ho Chi Minh City administration by Sawaco in a bid to be granted permission to transform the reservoirs into underground water reserves that would serve the city’s demand for domestic water.

The green-light was given in 2015 and the project is currently moving ahead as planned.  Based on guidance from the municipal administration the water towers are being removed with combined efforts from the Department of Transportation, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the district-level administrations, and relevant departments.

Two of the reservoirs are currently being pulled down - one on Nguyen Van Dau Street in Binh Thanh District and the other on Tran Van Trang Street in District 1.

Earlier this month, the city’s authorities began relocation efforts for residents in the area around the water tower in District 1, following a clear municipal plan for fair relocation and compensation.

The top of this reservoir has been completely removed and demolition is well underway.

The oldest reservoir still stands high within the premise of Sawaco on Vo Van Tan Street, District 3. Photo: Tuoi Tre
The oldest reservoir still stands high within the premise of Sawaco on Vo Van Tan Street, District 3. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Pity over the edifices

News that the century-old structures are to be demolished aroused mixed feelings amongst locals, many of whom consider the relics to hold significant cultural value.

Duong Ngoc Khoa, a Ho Chi Minh City resident, says the particular reservoir he passes each day gives him an odd feeling.

“It’s just funny to see this ‘huge mushroom’. Now that it’s being pulled down, it feels like I’m parting with a memory,” he adds.

Uyen Huy, a Saigonese painter, agrees with the administration’s decision, given the safety and security issues they present.

But rather than completely demolish the structures, Huy suggested that they might be transformed into other facilities, such as restaurants and coffee houses.

Echoing the opinion, Dr Vu The Long, a committee member of UNESCO Hanoi, strongly opposes the complete destruction of the water towers.

“Structures from the old days appeal to tourists. Saigon’s attraction will decline if all our tangible value disappears,” he emphasized.

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