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Historical site in Hue under threat

Update: October, 19/2015 - 07:50

Special place: A photographer captures a view of the Huong River from the hill. — VNS Photo Hue Phong

by Phuoc Buu

THUA THIEN-HUE (VNS) — Plans to turn Hue's historical Vong Canh Hill, part of the UNESCO World Heritage site, into a park has worried locals that the picturesque ruins of the former imperial capital city will be vandalised.

Last week, the People's Committee of Thua Thien-Hue Province, announced that they had set up a project to make the hill a "park".

The planned park will occupy 219ha of land in the hill and its buffer zones. The park would serve as a public place for walking tours, relaxation, and a rest stop for tour programmes on buses or river boats.

It would be an occasional venue for art camps and other cultural activities. The plan would add some structures, such as sightseeing towers and rest stops for visitors.

There would be some housing built in the buffer zone located in the southern part of the hill for a "tourism village".

A parking lot will be built in the northern buffer zone.

On the approval document issued by the committee, chairman Nguyen Van Cao noted that the concrete works must be eco-friendly and "would make no harm to heritage sites and the view from this hill to the bordering Huong (Perfume) River".

Tidy up needed

But experts expressed concerns, saying that this project might drive more concrete works into the hill and damage it.

"Local authorities should define clearly what type of park they plan to build in Vong Canh," said local researcher Ho Tan Phan.

Phan, 75, said the hill, which is covered by green pine trees, is a park now and it serves as an idyllic place for sightseeing, picnicking and camping.

"To some extent, the site needs some tidying up and the re-organisation of the parking lots that nearby residents set up by themselves in the buffer zones," he said.

The researcher also noticed that the hill is part of the UNESCO Heritage site despite being located outside the fencing walls of the adjacent tombs of Tu Duc and Dong Khanh, respectively, the fourth and ninth kings of the Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945).

"The hill has a green ambience when looking from these tombs to the river and any buildings on the hill would ruin the harmony of the Khiem Lang, tombs of King Tu Duc," he said.

In the past, the hill was a royal station for waterway trips to visit the tombs, Phan added.

Younger generations also voiced concerns over the project as the hill is the best place in the city to enjoy the spectacular, poetic view of a section of the renowned Huong River.

Gorgeous colours and the reflection of the sunset on the water surface has attracted thousands of photographers and painters over the past decades.

"The project needs to be careful as the hill is a special place in the minds and hearts of Hue residents," said Le Dac Nguyen Quy, 35, a local resident working in the tourism sector.

Researcher Phan demanded public consultation over the plans and design of the project.

"Locals have the right to make sure that no stalls selling souvenir items, no coffee shops and no beer pubs would be allowed on the hill," he said.

Bao Huy, 33, a resident in the city agreed with Phan, demanding public contribution in the park development project.

"We have to make sure that the park isn't developed differently from what the authorities stated," he said.

In 2006, local authorities agreed a hotel project on the hill which was later discarded due to strong opposition from locals. — VNS

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