Vietnam capital suspends scores of officials after tree felling causes public uproar

By Thai Son - Le Quan, Thanh Nien News

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A tree felled on Hanoi's Le Duan Street. Photo: Ngoc Thang A tree felled on Hanoi's Le Duan Street. Photo: Ngoc Thang

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The mayor of Hanoi on Sunday ordered the suspension of scores of officials responsible for a massive tree-cutting plan that had got the axe two days ago following a public outrage.
Nguyen The Thao, chairman of the Hanoi's People's Committee, instructed the Department of Construction to suspend officials who were involved in the project that had envisaged chopping down 6,700 trees lining the city’s thoroughfares.
A statement issued by the municipal government Sunday did not say exactly how many officials were affected. It only said that section head-  and deputy section head-ranked officials and other officers involved would be suspended.
Thao also asked the city’s chief inspector to work with relevant agencies to set up a task force that would look into the US$3.4 million landscaping project.
Thao gave the inspection team a month to finish their task and report the progress of their handling to him by then.
The Hanoi mayor on Friday ordered a stop to the tree felling after the move drew widespread public flak, setting the social media abuzz and triggering an unusual street protest on Sunday.
Thao had blamed the public protest against the project on his subordinates' failure to thoroughly inform the masses about it, leading them to misinterpret it as a "tree massacre."
In fact, the project only sought to replace dying trees that pose risks to road users with new, healthy ones, he said.
But local media suggested that Hanoi authorities might have had ulterior motives given that many trees that were cut down look healthy and luxuriant.
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.
Le Van Duc, director of the construction department, said that its division in charge of infrastructure would organize the auction of timber from the felled trees and contribute the proceeds to the city’s budget.
At least 500 trees on nine streets had been felled.

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