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New road poses threat to Ha Noi‘s Imperial Citadel

Update: July, 28/2014 - 08:54
Making a mess: This photo taken last week shows the archaeological site filled with mobile toilets and construction materials. — Photo tuoitre.vn

HA NOI (VNS) — The ongoing construction of the National Assembly House threatens the World Heritage status of the archaeological site next door, the relics of Thang Long Imperial Citadel.

In an urgent petition submitted to the Prime Minister on July 18, scientists expressed deep concern that "the construction of a road around the nearly completed National Assembly building severely affected zones C and D of the World Heritage site, which lie in the vicinity".

Signed by the Viet Nam Association of Historical Sciences, the Viet Nam Cultural Heritage Association and the Vietnamese Archaeologists Association, the paper describes excavation pits were damaged and inundated with rainwater and rubbish, while construction materials, motorbikes, public mobile toilets and construction workers'shelters filled the area.

"The infringement is not simply a violation of UNESCO convention but goes against our commitment... that the construction of the new National Assembly building would not affect the intactness of the Imperial Citadel relics," said Nguyen Quang Ngoc, vice chairman of the Viet Nam Association of Historical Sciences and a member of the Advisory Council of the Ha Noi People's Committee on Thang Long Citadel.

The archaeological excavation at 18 Hoang Dieu Street started in 2002, with the goal of preparing for the National Assembly building project. However, it revealed a wealth of monuments and relics that demonstrated the development of dynasties in Thang Long (now Ha Noi). The Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long was recognised as a World Heritage site by the UN cultural agency in 2010.

The petition reiterates that the construction was carried out without any supervision by conservation authorities.

"Heritage specialists have rarely been allowed to enter this area since the start of the construction," historian Ngoc said.

The petition also points out that strict regulations stipulated in the Law on Cultural Heritage had been ignored, leading to serious damage to the relics.

"The construction of the buffer way around the National Assembly building was allowed, provided that the structure did not go more than one metre deep to avoid hurting the heritage," said head of the Vietnamese Archaeologists Association Tong Trung Tin.

"However, a concrete wall was built too close to the excavation pits. Some sections are three to four metres high, surpassing the allowed level."

Do Thieu Quang, deputy director of the National Assembly House and Ba Dinh Conference Hall project's management board, argued that the construction of the buffer way was necessary and closely followed the approved design of the whole complex.

Since the project began in 2009, he said, construction workers "have always abided by regulations and respected heritage values".

However, he also made the case that some damage was inevitable.

The petition makes a number of requests, one of which is that the management board must work under the supervision of the heritage site's managers.

"The site must be tidied up immediately. The surface must be cleaned and something must be done to save the inundated excavation pits," said Luu Tran Tieu, chairman of the Viet Nam Cultural Heritage Association.

The Ha Noi People's Committee has asked the National Assembly building project's management board to co-ordinate with the Conversation Centre of the Thang Long-Ha Noi Relics to pump water out of the excavation pits and clear materials, ensuring work will not affect the archaeological site. — VNS

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