An environment organization run by a group of expats in Hanoi has received official support from the city after photos of them cleaning up a polluted canal went viral and led to several controversial remarks from local leaders.
The city chairman Nguyen Duc Chung visited James Joseph Kendall, founder of Keep Hanoi Clean, on Wednesday to express gratitude for the group’s contribution.
“I’m extremely happy to report that we now have full support from the government!” Kendall, 34, wrote on the group’s Facebook page about the visit.
“Now, we will have a chance to see what is really possible when everybody works together.”
Kendall and several other group members including three foreigners were seen wading in black waters and picking up trash from the canal near Nguyen Khang Street in Cau Giay District's Yen Hoa Ward on Sunday.
They also planted trees along the canal, according to photos posted on the group’s Facebook page.
The group's photos and their messages have received a lot of positive feed back from local public.
But in an unexpected move, Yen Hoa Ward officials on Monday discredited the group and criticized it for not asking permission for the cleanup. They also claimed that the canal had been cleaned a month earlier.
The reaction sparked disappointment and anger among many locals.
Hoang Trung Kien, chairman of Yen Hoa Ward, also met with Kendall on Wednesday. He did not comment on earlier comments from his office, and promised to send personnel to help the group in their future projects.
At least this official visit can now calm the public and show that the city respects the good work of environmental groups.
Kendall, an American, has been living in Vietnam for three years and is now teaching English at a school in Hanoi. He said he has seen how trash dumped by people gets stuck in waterways and creates severe pollution.
He started Keep Hanoi Clean on May 1, initially by inviting his foreign friends before the team attracted many Vietnamese.
The group, which now boasts more than 1,400 members, including around 20 regular members, is scheduled to clean up canals, public parks and gardens every weekend.