Environmental activists in Ho Chi Minh City have launched a campaign to save some of the city’s old trees, which have been marked for destruction as part of a development plan.
They are hoping to emulate the protest movement staged in Hanoi last year, which succeeded in saving thousands of that city’s trees.
The city government in Ho Chi Minh City last week announced plans to cut down some 300 trees on Ton Duc Thang Street, along the Saigon river in the very heart of the city.
Small numbers of young people came out with banners and posters in the days that followed the announcement in an attempt to attract the attention of passersby.
Some 30 protesters lined the street on Saturday to try to alert fellow citizens to what they see as an environmental threat to the city.
They shouted slogans, warning that the trees were the lungs of the city and that cutting them down was a crime.
At first, the authorities appeared to pay little attention to the small group of activists.
But by Saturday, participants said they were challenged and harassed by large numbers of police, plainclothes agents and what the government calls “spontaneous masses”.
The protesters say that Ho Chi Minh City, given its year round tropical climate, needs its trees even more badly than Hanoi as they provide a degree of natural air conditioning.
The authorities say they are cutting the trees as part of a project to develop transport infrastructure, including the construction of a new subway line and terminal
The activists say it’s been difficult to stir up popular support so far, as feelings about the trees do not appear to run as strongly as they did in Hanoi.
Hundreds of activists staged a series of rallies last spring in Hanoi to protest against a much larger scheme to cut thousands of the city’s famous trees.
The city authorities eventually abandoned the scheme, in a rare climb down, and accepted some responsibility for mishandling it.
The campaigners in Hanoi declared victory, although many suffered harassment and intimidation from the authorities as a consequence of their actions.