HCM CITY — The HCM Department of Transport has approved a plan by the Thuong Nhat Company to develop waterway boat routes within the city.
The Sai Gon River in HCM City. The southern city is criss-crossed by waterways, which officials say should be developed for transport. — VNA/VNS Photo Trong Duc
Under the plan, the company will develop two passenger routes during the initial phase, and buy boats and build passenger stations.
The first route, which will have a length of 25km, will include An Loc, An Hoa-Binh Loi, Thanh Da-Sai Gon River, Te Canal–Oâng Lon Channel–Dia Channel, Roi Channel-Phu Xuan River.
The route will be divided into three sections, with each section having six boat terminals to receive passengers.
The second route, from Ben Nghe Canal to Tau Hu Canal, will have a total length of 12 km and six terminals.
Director Nguyen Kim Toan said his company wanted to invest in waterway routes because the city had potential to develop river transport.
Such routes would be considered a sustainable solution to ease traffic congestion on city roads, Toan said.
However, experts said the current situation of rivers and canals, which are silted-up in several sections, and the low navigation clearance of several bridges across rivers and canals would be obstacles to setting up routes.
Tran The Ky, the department's deputy director, said to facilitate conditions, the city should invest in building waterway stations and consider offering subsidies for waterway boat investors.
The current waterway routes that transport passengers and cargo to nearby provinces are overloaded.
Every year, the Doi Canal and Te Canal routes receive 100,000 waterway vehicles, transporting about 13 million tonnes of cargo to the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta provinces.
However, the routes are filled with eight sandbars, which are threatening safe operation of waterway vehicles, according to River Management Station No 10.
Doi Canal and Te Canal routes had not been dredged for 20 years due to limited budgets, said Station No10, which manages the route.
Duong Huu Nhat, deputy director of Station No 10, said the station managed river and canal routes from HCM City to Tay Ninh, Dong Nai, Binh Duong, Long An, Tien Giang and Ba Ria–Vung Tau provinces.
These routes have a total of 28 sandbars and underground rock sites on the riverbed which threaten safe transport.
The waterway routes have not been exploited for a long time, but they have not been dredged because of limited funds, according to Station No 10.
The waterway route from the city to Cho Gao Canal in Tien Giang Province, the only waterway linking the city with the delta region, is also overloaded and degraded.
The Cho Gao canal, which is 80m wide and 28.5km long, is congested with vessels and boats, with an estimated 1,500 of them passing through every day, up nearly 50 per cent compared to three years ago, according to the River Management Station No 11, which manages inland waterways in Tien Giang, Vinh Long, Ben Tre and Tra Vinh provinces.
There were 170 traffic jams on the canal last year, up from 113 in 2008.
Nguyen Dinh Thi, deputy director of the River Management Station No 11, said if the canal was not immediately dredged in the sections with the most silt build-up, traffic congestion would become worse.
The Ministry of Transport has approved a project to deepen and expand the canal to facilitate transport on it. The project will be implemented in 2011-14.
According to the city Department of Transport, there are 250km of waterway routes from HCM City to other provinces, but all are managed by the Ministry of Transport's agency and embankments have not been built for years.
In addition, the routes have not been upgraded for many years, causing erosion to several river and canal bank sections.
The department has asked the city People's Committee to petition the ministry to allow the city to manage inner waterway routes around the city, including Te Canal, Doi Canal, Oâng Lon Channel, the Sai Gon River, Dong Nai River and Cho Dem–Ben Luc River. — VNS