Relocating administrative center a bad move

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 High rise buildings rise out of the skyline in Hanoi. A zoning plan to develop the capital city through 2030 is expected to be approved by the government before Hanoi's millennium anniversary in October.

The controversial General Zoning Plan for Hanoi through 2030, developed by US-South Korean joint-venture PPJ and the Institute of Architecture, Urban and Rural Planning under the Construction Ministry, is expected to be approved by the Prime Minister before Hanoi's 1,000th anniversary this October. Nguyen Quang, program manager for the United Nations Human Settlements Development Program in Vietnam, spoke on the issue with Thanh Nien Weekly.

The proposal to move Hanoi's administrative center to Ba Vi District has attracted several contradictory views. Can you share your thoughts on this?

It is not easy to fix the structure of urban space as planners wish, when the space is being shaped by market economy mechanisms. And Vietnam's planning method has not changed much from the traditional voluntarism method of making master plans. Master plans draw buildings or roads that have to be built, but do not mention how the resources to construct the buildings or roads can be accessed.

We had thought of building Vinh Yen Town in Vinh Phuc Province into a modern one that is even bigger than Hanoi. However, we do not have the resources to implement this, and it remains a small city. The vision of building national road No. 5 as a highway linking Hanoi with Hai Phong City cannot be realized as a range of small industrial parks and factories have sprung up along the road.

Ba Vi is very far from downtown Hanoi (around 60 kilometers), so how are residents to go there and ask that officials deal with issues that concern them? The plan (the General Zoning Plan for Hanoi through 2030) is only a construction plan, not a development plan. What we need now is a development plan that focuses on improving people's lives, protecting the environment, ensuring economic growth and job creation to accelerate poverty reduction.

Hanoi's space structure should be shaped by many factors, not just a master plan. It should be decided by a system of controlling and accessing investment according to established priorities which are themselves based on the social and environmental impacts. These should decide what constructions are allowed, or what needs to be preserved


An ideal plan must deal with issues relating to people's livelihoods. So, it is time to think about reforming the planning system itself.

So you think locating the administrative center in Ba Vi is not a good move?

There is no question that the current (administrative) area is too small. But the planning should be heritable. We should not zone a city towards the east today, and the west tomorrow. We'd already planned to develop Hanoi in the northern direction, but the current plan focuses on the west.

We have already planned a national administrative area in My Dinh, so there is no need to build a new administrative center far from the city's downtown area. An administrative center should be easily accessible to residents and its location should facilitate the provision of services.

Is it more feasible and practical to set it up in the My Dinh area or near the West Lake?

As a big city, Hanoi can have many centers, and administrative agencies needn't be concentrated in one area. In the current context of e-governance, administrative agencies could be located in different districts of the city if we have good connections. Hanoi now has only 40 percent of its population living in urban areas, and its infrastructure is similar to that of a rural area. This means that the plan to build a mega city is likely to have major environmental impacts.

However, there are some who feel that the construction of the West Lake-Ba Vi route and an administrative center in Ba Vi may help improve the development of a part of Hanoi, formerly Ha Tay Province.

Some countries also think that transportation problems can be solved by developing cities lengthwise. However, as I mentioned above, the space structure of a city is not decided by us, but by other factors.

The main route of a city should be like a living cell, connecting to an economic development point, otherwise it will not be very effective, from an economic standpoint.

What of the plan to build satellite cities?

Satellite cities have been mentioned in many plans. We cannot regulate how this or that city should be, it is a natural development process. We can only classify them, and then decide on suitable investment in its infrastructure. If we fix the population of the core city of Hanoi, and its satellite cities, we are working against the market's development principle and people's right of migration.

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