Last week, we asked readers what they thought about Ha Noi's plans to ease traffic jams by introducing congestion charges for vehicles in the city and banning certain types of vehicles from some streets
Graham Bassett, British, HCM City
I have come to the conclusion that until Viet Nam's leaders really grasp the nettle, little will change when it comes to the chaos that passes itself off as organised traffic management. Half-hearted measures will not change anything.
In Europe, it's not unusual to see whole areas of cities and towns reserved for pedestrian use-only. As indeed, that is what happened here in HCM City during Tet. Wasn't it nice to be able to walk freely instead of waiting to be run down?
Unfortunately such schemes don't come cheap. They also require a planned, well-developed and well-run public transport system to be put in place first. It is okay to ban vehicles, but without a viable alternative, how are people supposed to get about? One thing that the cities of Viet Nam seem to lack is viable, underground and over-ground, commuter rail networks. These can shift thousands of people at a time with little of that scourge of the modern city, pollution. Just go to Singapore and Thailand to see what I mean.
One thing I have noticed is that motor bikes don't pay tolls. Can anyone explain why not? They are using the road as much as any other vehicle. With use comes responsibility and I hate to say it, bills to pay! I would also do away with 10 per cent of Viet Nam traffic at a stroke. Get all those badly maintained vehicles off the road for starters.
Dr Carlos Jahnsen, German, Ha Noi
The National Assembly is currently seeking comments from experts and the general public about the latest draft of the Environmental Protection Tax Law. Five groups of products would be subject to a tax under the new law, including: petroleum and oil, coal, substances containing hydro- chlorofluorocarbons (HCFC's), plastic bags and fertilisers.
Different product categories would be subject to different taxes ranging from VND500-30,000 per litre or kilo.
The taxes would be added to final product prices, making consumers ultimately responsible for their payment.
According to the Ministry of Finance's Tax Policy Department, the environmental tax would encourage people to reduce their use of environmentally harmful products.
However, four out five of the product categories are primarily used by farmers and fishermen.
Do you think this tax is a practical and feasible way to protect the environment?
Does your country have a similar law?
What do your legislators do to encourage people to change their habits and switch to more environmentally-friendly products? What do they do to raise awareness about environmental protection?
Beyond the law, what should be done to protect the environment?
We welcome your opinions. Emails should be sent to: email@example.com – or by fax to 84 (0) 43 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 11 Tran Hung Dao Street, Ha Noi.Replies to next week's question must be received by Thursday morn April 1.
It is excellent that Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has taken the very important initiative to move the municipal representatives to find out solutions to solve this acute problem. This is a very important first step, but only a first step. Several actions must follow now. When we talk about the traffic in Ha Noi, we are not only talking about the benefits and the necessity of transportation and modernity. We are also talking at the same time about pollution, noise, constant lack of police presence and implementation of law on the streets, we are talking about a lack of traffic education, about personal anarchy, violence and aggression on the streets, and we are talking about high levels of driver ignorance and negligence especially by bus and taxi drivers. The statistics are very clear; in Viet Nam's streets in the last ten years more lives have been lost, than at the battle at Dien Bien Phu. It would be too easy to try to explain this development only with "wrong habits". Instead we now have a war of a "bicycle society". Within less than a generation, society has gone from the bicycle to move from A to point B, to a range of different forms of vehicle, yet bicycle riding habits have remained. When we are talking about the traffic in Ha Noi, we are also talking about the lost chances for children to play on the streets. Who will help millions of children in the future overcome the different deficits of a healthy environment? What do the old people think in Ha Noi when they have to cross from one side of the street to the other? What about the ambulances trying to urgently bring people to hospital through chaotic traffic? With this traffic situation we all are all losers.
Considering all the problems discussed above, proposals to handle the traffic must be effective, and multidimensional. Ha Noi authorities have to act very quickly. More physical infrastructure in Ha Noi is necessary; this means better streets and roads and better traffic management. Long term education in school is very important; as is continuous educational advertising to the population through the mass media, the organising and implementation of proper driver's education and the adequate education and equipment of the traffic police are important conditions to have adequate traffic-structures. These basic activities have to be backed up with effective police work on the street. A continuous police presence, day and night, with more powers are necessary to reduce the anarchy. The implementation of drastic punishment for traffic violations is absolutely necessary.
Charges for vehicles that travel across the city could be helpful to redirect some traffic out from the city. The introduction of high yearly taxes for car owners according to the engine power would be effective to control the number of cars. The development of a good, clean and safe public transportation system like a train – and an underground service is necessary. This is costly but, I suppose, is a very important measure to change the traffic situation in Ha Noi in a sustainable way.
A pilot project should be introduced to ban the traffic, for example on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, in some parts of the city, such as specific parts of the Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake, around the Temple of Literature and other parts of the city, transforming these places for some hours into a shopping and recreation site for people. State-owned enterprises should introduce a "green day" every month in which the enterprises encourage their employees with incentives to use a bicycle to go to work.
Cu Hong Anh, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
From my point of view, I do not think that a charge for vehicles travelling across the city centre is the suitable solution to reduce traffic congestion. People still need to travel from their home to office. If the charge is small, they might be willing to pay to travel conveniently by using their private vehicle, not a public one. Therefore, the traffic congestion would still remain unsolved.
If the charge is a quite large amount per day, there would be a bad reaction from people. There is a fact that in a big city, living costs are often higher. If a congestion charge is added, this will become more serious. Furthermore, how to collect the charge and how to manage it properly should also be considered before a decision is made on this matter.
"Ha Noi is in danger of being eaten by motor vehicles." This problem will never be solved in this century or the next, unless the Government gets its head out of the proverbial sand. In the time I have been here this problem is regurgitated time after time and nothing concrete has been done except move the traffic chaos down the road. What are the ‘rafts of proposals'? Charging vehicles! Another road toll! More money to fritter away on fireworks displays? Is this supposed to ease traffic congestion? What about improving the public transport system and repair the roads, then people might leave their vehicles at home.
Ryu Hashimoto, Japanese, Binh Duong
I sometimes drive a motor vehicle in HCM City and find that some "country people" frequently ignore traffic regulations (I can recognize them by number plate).
Near my workplace, some trucks go through the Industrial Park to avoid paying the toll and frequently cause accidents, so the management company of the IP may decide that all the trucks going through the park must be registered in advance.
In Viet Nam, roads don't have enough space for all vehicles so this kind of plan could be effective especially for Ha Noi.
In fact, I think this kind of plan could ease traffic congestion. Tokyo was in a state of chaos, when it was full of motorbikes, trams, buses, trucks and so on but they were cleared before the Olympic Games in 1964. I think the Government needs a plan and strong will, targets and an explanation to people to get them to understand why this is being done.—VNS