Hanoi doles out penalties for officials in notorious tree-cutting project

By Mai Ha-Le Quan, Thanh Nien News

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A tree chopped down in March 2015 as part of the US$3.4 million landscaping project in Hanoi. Photo: Le Quan
The Hanoi government announced Tuesday it will issue warnings to a number of officials and dismiss some others involved in an infamous tree-cutting project that sparked public outrage in March.
Nguyen The Thao, chairman of the Hanoi City People’s Committee, admitted his responsibility for the project that had envisaged chopping down 6,700 trees lining the capital city’s street.
Nguyen The Hung, Thao’s deputy, and a number of officials in the Department of Construction, which was tasked with overseeing the project, will be given the warnings.
Two officials of a board in charge of infrastructure projects will be dismissed.
Some departments and agencies were asked to “review their responsibilities" in the implementation of the project.
Under the US$3.4 million landscaping project that was initiated in August 2013, a total of 6,700 trees on 190 streets across the city would have been cut down and replaced with new trees.
The construction department said there were more than 29,600 trees on around 200 streets of Hanoi, but many of them were dying or aging, posing risks to road users during the rainy season.
But after the project began last March, with the removal of the first 500 trees, it drew widespread public flak, setting the social media abuzz and triggering unusual street protests.
Trees chopped down on a street in Hanoi in March 2015. Photo credit: Tien Phong
The wave of criticisms prompted the Hanoi mayor to halt the tree felling on March 20. An inspection into the project was also conducted.
Two months later, inspectors said the project had “many shortcomings,” including the lack of a thorough scientific research before implementing the project and unclear figures about the number of dying trees.
Local media suggested that Hanoi authorities might have had ulterior motives given that many trees that were cut down look healthy.
Many of the trees marked for removal are believed to be more than 100 years old, so their timber can be highly valuable, local media said.

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