Experts question Hanoi's massive city model

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Architects and other experts are raising questions about the Ministry of Construction's purchase of a US$3-million model of its controversial 20-year master zoning plan


Some believe that immortalizing the zoning plan in modeling materials is like couting one's chickens before they're hatched. The details are still being debated and the plan has yet to be approved by the Prime Minister. 


The ministry's model is like "a challenge to the public and experts," said Dr. Nguyen Xuan Dien from the Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences.


In fact, the model, which is slated to be unveilled during the city's 1,000th anniversary this October, was ordered in China about six months ago.


The model will be paid for with $2.8-million aid from South Korean-owned POSCO. The Shanghai-based Xingyu Company, which has been contracted to build the model, has offered to contribute $350,000 to the effort.


Assembled once it arrives, the model consists of two massive segments (between 600-700 square meter each) and 12 smaller components (approx 40-50 square meters each). Portions of the model reach heights of up to 30 meters.


The model is a waste of money, even if the money is granted by foreign companies, said Ngo Doan Duc, vice chairman of Vietnamese Architects Association.


Following the unveilling of the zoning plan early this year, the price of land along the proposed Thang Long thoroughfare soared incredibly, according to the architect, who went on to argue that the ministry should have called for more extensive public response to the plan.


Some government officials say that any changes to the plan can be made, and that the model will prove an important tool for the debate.


The model will be adjusted when it is imported from China and set up at the National Zoning House in My Dinh District, said Nguyen Dinh Toan, deputy minister of construction.


The model gives the public and related agencies an opportunity to understand how the plan will work, Toan said at a press briefing in Hanoi, on Tuesday.


Last week in a letter to the government, Hanoi legislators proposed not moving the administrative center due to Ba Vi's inclement weather conditions, poor traffic access and less than ideal access to surrounding areas.


If the government agrees to halt the relocation, the establishment of the Thang Long thoroughfare won't be necessary anymore, vice director of Hanoi Department of Planning and Architecture told a reporter from the news website VnExpress.


The rejection of the plan comes as a complete one-eighty from the enthusiasm expressed by Hanoi's authorities during the National Assembly's meeting in June.


Nguyen The Thao, chairman of Hanoi People's Committee, then argued that Ba Vi Mountain offered an ideal location for the government offices and that the Thang Long thoroughfare would make a fine addition to the city's highlights.

In the meantime, Toan announced that, while the ministry has scrapped its plan to relocate the administrative center, when the ministry submits its plan to the National Assembly in June, it will still reccommend the construction of a new road to Ba Vi mountain.

He argued the thoroughfare would help meet the traffic demands of future residents in new urban areas.


He also stressed that there is wide public support for the Thang Long road.  


In response to concerns that some public officials may have ulterior motives for supporting the proposed thoroughfare, Toan announced that an internal investigation made sure that no officials had been buying up property along the road.


The development roadmap, known as the General Zoning Plan for Hanoi through 2030, was created by the US-South Korean joint-venture PPJ, and the Ministry's Institute of Architecture, Urban and Rural Planning.


The plan is expected to be approved by the Prime Minister before Hanoi's grand anniversary.

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