The Hanoi municipal administration on Wednesday asked its construction department to revise a US$3.4 million landscaping project that seeks to fell more than a quarter of trees currently lining the city's streets, following fierce criticism from the public.
It said the department should revise the planned felling and replanting of trees, taking public opinions into consideration.
Under the project, 6,700 trees on 190 streets across the capital city will be chopped down and new trees will be planted in lieu.
The department said there are more than 29,600 trees on around 200 streets of Hanoi, but many of them are dying, posing risks to road users during the rainy season.
It also said many different kinds of trees are sometimes planted on the same street, which is a poor aesthetic choice.
In addition, many trees must be cut down to clear the way for infrastructure projects, the department said without elaborating which projects.
Therefore, it selected the most "risky" trees for the replanting project.
Funding for the project will come from the city’s budget.
The department has not mentioned what it will do with the large volume of timber from the felled trees.
Many trees in the city are believed to be centuries old and their timber can be highly valuable.
In the last two days, Nguyen Chi Thanh Street, the first street where the project is implemented, looked like a massive construction site with a lot of large, luxuriant trees being cut into logs on the ground.
Workers put the big roots of new replacement trees into the spots right after the old trees had been cut off.
Le Van Duc, director of the Hanoi Department of Construction, said 381 trees of different kinds on Nguyen Chi Thanh Street will be replaced by Manglietia fordiana, which is also known as China Manglietia fordiana, a deciduous tree native to China which grows up to 30 meters in height.
He said the project is scheduled to finish by the end of this month.
The districts with the most trees to be cut down are Ba Dinh, Hai Ba Trung, Cau Giay and Thanh Xuan.
After the project was implemented, an avanlanche of criticism began to build on social media.
A Facebook page named “6,700 people for 6,700 trees” was opened to gather people who try to push back the project. Many famous scholars, researchers and architects were among the protesters.
The protesters accused the municipal authorities of being reckless in sanctioning the plan, as many of the chopped trees were neither rotten or ugly.
At last count, the page had more than 21,000 likes.
Tran Huy Anh of the Vietnam Architects Association said he found the 23-page project plan very unconvincing.
“For projects that affect such a huge community, planning must be thoroughly done,” he said.
“For each tree to be chopped down, they must give full details: how it was planted, where it is and what condition is it in. Then they have to publicize the information.
“It is excruciating to see thousands of trees being felled at the same time. How many trees can we replant in one year? And once planted, after how many years can we have the shade again?"
Giang Quan, a researcher who specializes in Hanoi culture, said it is a waste of money to cut down thousands of trees, including large ones, especially in the current context when Hanoi is desperately in need of greenery.
“Hanoi’s per capita green space area is very low, at less than one square meter per person,” he said.
Experts of the Vietnam Greenery Association proposed that the construction department revise its plan, give full details of each tree to be felled and make the information public to avoid squandering.