Can Tho Bridge, known as Southeast Asia's longest suspension bridge, opened to traffic last Saturday. — VNA/VNS Photo Duy Khuong
CAN THO —Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has hailed the new Can Tho Bridge as a significant catalyst for socio-economic development in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta region.
Inaugurating Southeast Asia's longest suspension bridge last Saturday, Dung said the bridge removes the last (river-based) hindrance to North-South traffic along National Highway No 1.
"Connecting Cuu Long [Mekong] Delta region with the whole country will be a crucial impetus to socio-economic development of the region and the key southern economic zone," he said.
The bridge was significant not only for the economy, but also of great political, social and cultural importance. It would "make the dream of generations of people on the two banks of the Hau River as well as that of delta residents come true," the Prime Minister said.
The Can Tho Bridge, which spans the Hau River connecting Vinh Long Province and Can Tho City, has a suspension spans 550m long. It has a total length of 2.75km that extends to 15.8km if its feeding roads on either side are included.
The bridge has four lanes with a total width of 26m. It cost about VND5 trillion ($330 million) to build, with funds drawn mostly from Japanese official development aid (ODA).
Transport Minister Ho Nghia Dung praised the "outstanding efforts" put in over 2,000 days by experts and workers from Japan, Viet Nam and other countries. "Can Tho Bridge will speed up development of seven provinces on the western banks of the Hau River," he said.
He emphad that traffic infrastructure works are key to plans that envisage the Delta as a hub for rice and fisheries production, biotechnology and clean energy development, as well as a centre for education, trade and tourism.
"In addition to the bridge, the construction of other key traffic infrastructure projects including Southern Hau River and Phung Hiep highways, HCM City – Trung Luong Expressway, Rach Mieu Bridge and Highway No2 will bring the region opportunities to develop and transport products from the Delta to other places in the country and the world," Dung said.
Mitsuo Sakaba, Japanese ambassador to Viet Nam, expressed sympathy for the families of 55 people who died and 79 who were injured on September 26 2007, when two spans of the bridge collapsed.
The accident suspended work on the bridge till March 2008, delaying the project that began in September 2004.
PM Dung said the completion and operation of this bridge would ease the pain of the bereaved. He called on authorities and residents to take advantage of the bridge to boost incomes and living standards.
Thousands of people flocked to either ends of the new bridge on Saturday morning waiting for it to open to traffic. Soon after its opening, it was congested until midnight with residents lingering on it to admire the views on either side.
Following the My Thuan Bridge that opened in 2000, the Can Tho Bridge fulfils delta residents' wish to have bridges over the Tien and Hau rivers, tributaries of Mekong River in Viet Nam and the largest rivers in the region.
Also on Saturday, the Ministry of Transport inagurated the 9km Ham Luong Bridge, which is expected to facilitate transportation between isolated areas of Ben Tre as well as traffic from Tra Vinh and Soc Trang provinces to HCM City.
On Saturday afternoon, the last ferry crossed the Hau River with special passengers on board, including Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, former Party General Secretary Le Kha Phieu, Transport Minister Ho Nghia Dung and provincial leaders in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta.
Dung sounded three long rounds of the ferry boat horn at 17:30 pm, marking an end to the historic mission of ferry boats on the river that have transported people and vehicles for almost a century.
At the following farewell ceremony for Can Tho ferry boats, the Prime Minister, on behalf of President Nguyen Minh Triet, presented the Labour Medal Second Order to the staff operating the ferries.
He personally greeted and encouraged ferry workers who will either retire or resume new work after the Can Tho Bridge opened to traffic earlier on Saturday.
At a meeting held to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the liberation of South Viet Nam and to open the 6th National Sports Festival in Can Tho City yesterday, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung asked Can Tho officials to do their utmost to modernise the city.
Dung said the city must become a centre of industry, trade and services in the fields of tourism, education and training, health, culture, science and technology.
He also said infrastructure and transport must meet international standards.
Dung asked local authorities to closely co-ordinate with neighbouring provinces to build Can Tho City into a model urban area.
Also attending the meeting was former Party General Secretary Le Kha Phieu, former National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Van An, 25,000 local residents and 2,398 athletes.
On Saturday, the Prime Minister also attended the opening ceremony of the Viet Nam Fishery Festival in Can Tho City.
Traditional music and dance open the first Viet Nam Fisheries Festival. — VNA/VNS Photo Duy Khuong
The country's fisheries industry has emerged as one of the top exporters in the world after overcoming many hardships in recent decades, he said.
Fishery processors and exporters have brought seafood to 160 countries, and with a total export turnover of US$4.2 billion last year, the sector ranked third place in export turnover, behind crude oil and textiles.
Viet Nam has become one of the world's six leading seafood export countries.
The festival, the first of its kind in the country, offers opportunities for farmers, processors, exporters, scientists and consumers to discuss important issues and exchange business experiences.
Apart from honouring outstanding farmers, the festival will discuss ways of promoting fishery trademarks.
Dung noted that during the American war, fishermen were a vital lifeline to the troops on battlefields, supplying seafood to people and military forces.
The fishery sector continued to play a key role during re-construction after the war, by exploiting marine sources and developing aquaculture in the coastal zones and in ponds, lakes, and rivers around the country, he said.
"Viet Nam has many ponds, lakes, and rivers. The country owns 3,200km of coastline and a marine zone of more than 1,000sq. km that has high potential and advantages for fishery development," he said.
Last year, the fishery sector yielded 4.8 million tonnes, six times larger than the yield in 1986. Export turnover reached US$4.2 billion in 2009, 40 times larger than in 1986.
Dung praised the leadership of the Communist Party, the government's investment, and work by national and international scientists.
However, he noted that fishery production and trade still faced shortcomings, including small-scale and mainly onshore exploitation, old boats and ineffective fishing equipment, low living standards of fishery workers and infrequent use of technology.
Dung praised Can Tho City authorities for holding the festival, pointing out that 70 per cent of national export turnover came from the fishery sector.
"The country's fishery potential is still great in terms of marine exploitation, aquaculture expansion, yield increase and quality improvement," he said.
Tran Thanh Man, chairman of Can Tho City People's Committee, said the festival would address sustainable development of the fishery sector.
The festival's exhibition, which includes 450 businesses, opened on Saturday as the first activity of the four-day festival.
During the festival, many trade promotion meetings will be held for businesses, and cultural activities will also take place, including food festivals and art performance contests between fishery agencies, businesses and associations. At the opening ceremony, 12 scientists and 11 fishery farmers and fishermen, as well as eight businesses, were honoured.
The ceremony, attended by high-ranking government officials, ministers and ambassadors to Viet Nam, opened with fireworks on the first day. — VNS