The Hanoi Times - Experts expressed decidedly mixed feelings about foreign consultants’ proposals for a much larger Hanoi of the future at a seminar organized by the Hanoi Union of Scientific and Technological Associations (HUSTA) last week. Here we summarize reports from the vernacular papers Dan Tri, An Ninh Thu Do and VietNamNet.
The former head of Hanoi City’s Planning and Architecture Department, Dao Ngoc Nghiem, is particularly critical of the ‘master plan’ recently submitted to the city government. It is “simply not feasible,” he said.
The plan is the work of an American-Korean consortium, PPJ, which groups the American design firm Perkins Eastman, the Korean engineering and construction giant, POSCO, and a Korean-American design firm, Jina. Its ‘Master Plan to 2030, with a Vision to 2050,’ developed in a year of work, was reportedly well-received by city and national leaders.
Nghiem, now a deputy chairman of the Urban Planning Association, was addressing a crowd at a workshop organized by the Hanoi Union of Scientific and Technological Associations last week. He took strong issue with the PPJ vision that Hanoi could become the “world’s top sustainable metropolis,” with a population of 15 million and per capita income of 20,000 per year by 2030.
Noting that the present average income of Hanoians is $830 per person per year, far below HCM City incomes, Nghiem said – sarcastically – that he “quivered with joy” when he learned from PPJ that in ten years, Hanoi per capita income could reach the current South Korean level.
In the former planning chief’s view, PPJ presented a beautiful scenario but not the means to achieve it. Hanoi has many advantages, he said, and it is reasonable to aspire to “a certain position in the Asia-Pacific region” but not to world leadership.
Echoing Nghiem’s opinion, Chairman Bui Tam Trung of the Hanoi Association for Natural and Environmental Protection said that the capital’s central space is already densely exploited. There are construction sites everywhere and the space for trees and lakes is being “nibbled away.”
Over the next 3-5 decades, Trung offered, rather that vie to be another nondescript ‘modern city,’ Hanoi should aim to develop its own characteristics, including open space, trees, bodies of water, natural landscapes, climate, cultural heritage and characteristic Oriental way of life.
“Hanoi cannot compete to become a super-modern city, with the most high rise buildings or golf courses,” Trung said. “We should not imagine a capital which tops the country in every respect.” “The scale the plan proposes – why, Hanoi would be larger than Moscow!” added Professor Nguyen Xuan Han.
The proposed metropolitan green belt for Hanoi also concerned many of the experts at this seminar. “In the past, Hanoi was sheltered by a green belt but it has been pierced through by neighbouring provinces intent on participating in the area’s urbanization and industrial development,” Nghiem said.
“It is a good idea to build a green belt again but we need to make clear what ‘green’ means and where will be green,” Nghiem continued. “Hanoi has many rivers, ponds and lakes. Are these ‘green space’? The draft master plan suggests building 1400 square kilometers of urban areas in the next 20 years while the Capital Region (spanning eight cities and provinces, including Hanoi) only permits 1100 square kilometers. If we urbanize like that, how can the capital city be green?”
Many participants at the workshop rejected outright the PPJ proposal to locate a ‘national administrative centre’ in far to the west in Thach That district, north across the Red River in Dong Anh district, or to the southwest in the area between the Tich and Day rivers).
Dr. Vu Hoan, a HUSTA vice chairman, said that the current centre, Ba Dinh district in central Hanoi, should remain the pivot for future siting of the Government’s administrative infrastructure. Others supported Dr. Lam Quang Cuong of the Hanoi Construction University when he argued for sticking to the existing plan to expand Government offices into the area west of West Lake.
Dr. Nguyen Hoan of the Vietnam Economic Association commented said this aspect of the master plan didn’t reflect the viewpoint of Hanoi citizens or the Vietnamese way of thinking.
Cuong emphasized that planning for a ‘new city’ is off the mark. Present day Hanoi has already over 4 million citizens. That’s enough, Cuong suggested; it would be better to limit the population of the central area to five or six million, not to aim to turn Hanoi into a giant city in the future.
The experts agreed that Hanoi needs a new international airport, but disagreed where it should be. Cuong took issue with PPJ’s proposal that an airport be built in Phu Xuyen district, south-south-east of central Hanoi, saying that site is too far from Hai Phong City, the second largest city in the north. Endorsing Cuong’s idea, Hoan of the Vietnam Economic Association argued that the new airport should be east of Hanoi in Hai Duong or Hung Yen province.
Tran Thanh Loi, speaking for the Hanoi Department of Transportation, expressed concern that the master plan does not make adequate provision for roads and parking spaces.
Some expressed worry about the finances needed to implement this planning. “The foreign consultants introduced two alternatives. What resources does each plan need? Where is that money going to come from in this difficult situation?” asked Hoan.