Already delayed until June (as described here), the impending new rules mean one less obstruction on the busy streets, but a possible end to employment for many. As the article says,
The ban will affect some 60,000 people in the city whose livelihoods depend on these modified vehicles, among which is the famous cyclo.
A large number of city dwellers will also suffer since these vehicles perform many essential services like collecting garbage, selling food and vegetables, and transporting goods.
Another aspect to be concerned about is the practical one. These modified vehicles are the only ones able to squeeze through Saigon's maze of alleyways to deliver items, collect trash and much more. Commentators are shocked that the government is considering this without any viable alternative forthcoming. Of course other forces could be at work, as suggested by this editorial.
Up in the north there's a storm over the street vendors.
This story was reported all over the world in newspapers and online news sites, with a headline something like : Hanoi to ban street vendors. See this story here from Thanh Nien called Sidewalk Shuffle.
The idea is to 'reclaim' the streets. The article says :
'The impending ban of Hanoi vendors from street side space raises public frustration over policies targeting low-income laborers.'
The city has already backed down once, the ban now coming into force on Feb 20th, significantly, after TET holiday (see the article 'Hanoi's street vendors given temporary reprieve'
In an interview with Thanh Nien, Nguyen The Thao, chairman of the Hanoi People Committee, said street vendors could be permitted in some alleys and lanes.
“City officials believe sidewalks must be returned to pedestrians,” Thao said.
Ahh the sidewalks. Saigon actually has some great sidewalks. Wide and well paved.
Of course the problem is, as pedestrians, most of the time they are difficult to navigate. That and the heat just puts me off walking anywhere in the city. Here's some typical sidewalks from the city center.
Slowly but surely, familiar sights are disappearing. This street used to be packed full of market stalls :
I'm not claiming the stalls have been permanently removed, but restrictions are tightening. The question is this: reclaiming the streets, the roads, the sidewalks, is it a necessary part of this country's development? I won't allow sentiment to get the better of me, and I am sure this is inevitable change which will lead to more organized, less chaotic cities (read KL, Singapore...). On the other hand, I'm sure that as usual the restrictions will be hard to police properly and that the total disappearance of cluttered sidewalks, street vendors and spluttering three wheeled delivery vehicles is still a long off. Watch this space.