Wasteful or not?
As the central city of Danang is famous for its beautiful landscapes, clean environment and peaceful life, any infrastructure development projects should be taken into careful consideration so that merits of the city are not spoiled, and such projects should deserve the funds spent. For mammoth projects with strong impact on local residents like the controversial tunnel beneath the Han River, caution once again must be the first rule, as any decisions made in haste will lead to a huge waste and bad impact on society.
The plan to build a tunnel under the iconic river was first unveiled in late 2015. Since then, the municipal administration has been making steps to realize the ambitious project. However, conflicting claims to the necessity of a tunnel have surfaced these days as the project nears the stage of investment.
Le Van Trung, director of the Department of Transport of Danang, says in local media that city leaders have agreed on the construction of a tunnel, which would connect the two banks of the Han River. The tunnel is expected to stretch a total of 1,315 meters, with the submerged section measuring 900 meters in length and able to accommodate six lanes. The project will cost VND4.08 trillion (US$182.5 million).
At a press conference on Wednesday, the city’s Party secretary and chairman of the People’s Council, Nguyen Xuan Anh, said the project should be developed as it is the future traffic solution of Danang. The leadership of the Party and People’s Council also agreed on the tunnel plan in a meeting last month. In short, the tunnel is needed in anticipation of an influx of motor vehicles into the city, an increasing population and speedy urbanization.
Many officials and institutions in Danang advocate such a project.
Hoang Phuong Hoa, head of the Bridge - Tunnel Faculty at Danang University of Science and a member of the judgment panel of a contest on designs for the Han River tunnel, says on Vietnamnet news website that the city prefers a tunnel to a bridge to keep the remaining 2.5 km long river surface free from any new bridge.
Architect Hoang Quang Huy, chairman of the Danang Urban Planning and Development Association, says the construction of a tunnel is appropriate, because there are already six bridges across the Han River. The city should build no more bridges because they would hinder boat travel. If Danang builds the Han River Tunnel, this will be the first river tunnel in central Vietnam and will become another tourist destination in the city. Danang had sent two working groups to HCMC to study the Saigon River Tunnel.
However, such a decision has also stirred up controversies. Many local residents and experts have been questioning its necessity.
Danang City’s government has been accused of wasting money just to keep up with HCMC, where Vietnam’s first-ever river-crossing tunnel was built. Others believe the project is an unnecessary addition to the six bridges already spanning the Han River.
The cost to build a tunnel is more than double that of a bridge, while regular maintenance costs throughout its lifetime would also be four and five times higher than a bridge, Pham Thuy Loan, vice chairwoman of the National Institute of Architecture, says in Tuoi Tre newspaper.
While the tunnel itself would not disturb the river’s landscape, its network of connecting roads would disrupt the riverside space and take away the pleasure of sightseeing or jogging along the river. The connecting roads will be too big a disturbance to the area to be ignored, Loan says.
Meanwhile, Dr. Nguyen Viet Trung from the University of Transport said the winning tunnel design was flawed in the sense that it consisted of too many connections between parts of the tunnel, which would increase the risk of osmosis.
A sharp bend at one end of the tunnel was also pointed out by the professor as a potential cause of accidents. The city administration should take more time to study the project.
Nguyen Van My, chairman of Lua Viet Travel Company, says on baodatviet.vn that it is wrong to expect more tourists to the central city with the tunnel. Tunnels are built to ease traffic congestion and serve economic management, not to develop tourism, he argues.
As a naysayer, My warns that the project will cost a fortune. HCMC has spent huge capital on the Saigon River Tunnel but no tourists have come to see the structure.
“…Second, traffic jams and overpopulation in Danang is not as critical as in Hanoi and HCMC, so underground traffic projects like this are too soon… In addition, countries with a tourism development vision rarely pour money into tunnels because vacationers want to enjoy natural landscapes along roads. In general, the project is not necessary. The city should listen to all responses. The tunnel should be the last choice if all projects on the ground are impossible to build,” My adds.