When public interest is equated with private greed

TN News

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While many countries in the world are currently working to restore green spaces with more trees and parks in their metropolitan cities, Vietnam seems to be bucking the trend.

Here, we do the opposite. We take more and more green spaces away, in a "development" process that is fuelled by rapacious greed encouraged by a flawed developmental vision.

Take Ho Chi Minh City, the country's southern hub and also its largest city, for example. At the moment green areas cover some 535 hectares of land in the city, down 50 percent from that of 1998.

One person is estimated to have less than one square meter of green space, which is almost nothing in comparison to the rates of many developed countries where they reach up to 20-25 square meters per person.

While the city in recent years has announced plans to increase its green area, such plans can't be compared, in quantity and scale, to the projects to build trade centers, buildings, hotels and skyscrapers.

In fact, many parks across the city have been transformed, legally or illegally, for buildings and hotels. Like the city's first-ever water park, Saigon Water Park, in Thu Duc District, for example. In 2009 it caused a stir when its investor first closed it for an overhaul, but later built villas there without the municipal authorities' approval.

Sometimes the "magic" is made by authorities themselves, like the project for a 46.87-hectare park in Binh Chanh District. It was first approved more than 12 years ago, but even before construction was started, the city allowed its investor to set aside four hectares for apartment buildings.

A survey by the city's Department of Construction last year also pointed out that many park projects had been turned into buildings or residential areas.

The same situation has been seen in Hanoi, where the public in 2009 were upset when part of the Thong Nhat Park was taken for building the Novotel Hanoi, a four-star hotel.

Commercial projects are not only eating up parks and land areas assigned for parks, but also open areas which should have been used for green spaces.

For example, the HCMC authorities have recently approved the US$300-million golf complex at Tan Son Nhat International Airport. Another golf complex covering 117 hectares is also being built within the Gia Lam Airport in Long Bien District, Hanoi.

But what's worse here is that the project not only takes up rare airy spaces in the crowded cities, but also poses threats to national security and flight safety, according to experts.

Some people argue that all this is an unavoidable part of the urbanization process.

However, I would say it's evidence of irresponsible and near-sighted planning by the agencies in charge of the country's development policies.

It also shows how selfish businesses are by putting their benefits as priority over the public's, health and safety.

If policy makers and people in charge don't change their mindsets and their vision for the country's development, this process will get us nowhere. Worse still, this "development" will lead the country to a dead end where people will have no choice but to live with pollution and various threats as part of their daily life.

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