Public green spaces have never been more important in Hà Nội, a densely populated city facing challenges from rapid urbanisation, climate change and air pollution.
Hà Nội plans to open more public spaces by 2030. — Photo vneconomy.vn
The capital is in the midst of a prolonged heatwave so flower gardens and parks in the city have been popular spots recently.
Nguyễn Văn Miện, a man living on Hàng Bè Street of Hoàn Kiếm District, said: “On hot days, flower gardens and parks are ideal places for people, especially those living in the narrow houses on Old Quarter streets like me.”
Miện goes to Chí Linh Garden nearby Hoàn Kiếm Lake, where there are many old trees, to exercise and walk every day.
“If there were no public flower gardens like this to relax and do daily exercise, it would be very frustrating and uncomfortable,” he told Kinh Tế & Đô Thị (Economy and City) newspaper.
Public and green spaces are indispensable for a city to meet people's needs, but the reality is that public and green spaces are rare and their quality is low in central Hà Nội.
According to statistics of Livable Cities Project of Canada’s HealthBridge Foundation in Việt Nam, Hà Nội needs more flower gardens and playgrounds in residential areas, especially in the inner city, where the land used for public and green spaces accounts for less than 2 per cent of the total land fund.
For example, in Hoàn Kiếm District, there are only 13 flower gardens, equal to a rate of 0.1 sq.m per person on average.
In the Old Quarter, the rate is even lower. Cửa Đông Ward is home to nearly 70,000 people but only one flower garden while much space is used for car parking.
The city has targeted an average of public and green space of 3.02 sq.m per person for the central districts by 2030.
According to Dr Phạm Quỳnh Phương, an expert from the Institute of Cultural Studies, Hà Nội has paid some attention to the development of public and green space such as growing more trees, building more parks and gardens and opening walking streets but the spaces have not yet met the needs of the people.
In addition, many public spaces are being commercialised and privatised. The sidewalks are occupied by business households while many public places are used for parking lots or the expansion of transport infrastructure.
Overall harmonious landscape
The Hà Nội Party Committee has issued a programme for 2021 – 2025 aiming to renovate and upgrade 45 existing parks and flower gardens, build five new parks and flower gardens and upgrade 180 streets and sidewalks in 12 districts.
Some districts have started work on hitting those targets.
For example, Hoàn Kiếm District People's Committee has worked with the PRX Institute - Representative of the Ile-de-France region of France in Việt Nam and France’s DE-SO agency to build a project for public space planning and an eco-friendly green space management experiment.
Phạm Tuấn Long, chairman of Hoàn Kiếm District People's Committee, said because there was no land in the district available for new developments, the research plan proposed by the consulting unit – DE-SO - was to develop green spaces combined with the expansion of walking spaces to honour valuable architectural works.
The project aims to renovate the landscape and develop trade and tourism in the district including the statue of King Lý Thái Tổ with the State Bank Square, Diên Hồng Flower Garden with the Government guesthouse, and Opera House Square and Tràng Tiền and Hàng Khay streets and Hoàn Kiếm Lake, Long said.
The renovation would be based on the principle of restoring pedestrian spaces in the area while expanding green spaces, the chairman said.
Also, the project would provide Hà Nội with design tools for public spaces specific to the capital, particularly the old French streets.
French experts also proposed upgrading the streets of Hàng Khay and Tràng Tiền to improve the architectural value of the street and preserve the French architectural works.
They have also suggested developing the inside of stores to create a busy commercial axis and a promenade connecting with the walking space of Hoàn Kiếm Lake and the Opera House, he said.
Chairman of the Việt Nam Urban Development Planning Association, architect Trần Ngọc Chính, said that over the years, Hà Nội and Hoàn Kiếm District have implemented many projects to develop services, commerce and tourism in the Old Quarter, such as the implementation of the pedestrian route.
“This really was meaningful as Hà Nội was very short of parks, squares, public playgrounds, especially for children. For tourism, the impact of the walking streets was obvious,” Chính said.
“However, if Hoàn Kiếm Lake and its surrounding area are considered a transitional area connecting with the Old Quarter streets, it is necessary to have solutions to design the landscape of this area as a central park forming a space highlight and unique destination of the pedestrian streets,” Chính said.
According to the expert, the Hàng Khay-Tràng Tiền-Opera House route is currently an important walking centre, so it is necessary to combine the exploitation of the existing architecture works and building new commercial and service works with high aesthetic value to raise the quality of the walking space around Hoàn Kiếm Lake.
In addition, the city should study and implement a project that makes the French architectural streets become a heritage area to create new tourism products, Chính added