Dr Duong Chi Thien, head of the Viet Nam Institute of Sociology's Urban Sociology Department, spoke with the newspaper Ha Noi Moi (New Ha Noi) about urbanisation.
Has the construction of housing for low-income groups kept up with demand in numbers and quality of infrastructure?
Many houses have been built but many of the people who have a real need have yet to get houses. The main reason is that the market sector for villas and luxury apartments is booming while there are few housing projects under way for low-income earners. However, in the past two years the Government has paid more attention to low-income earners' demands.
Another problem is that developers concentrate on building houses and apartments and neglect social infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, transport networks and parking lots. In some projects, they have installed waste treatment systems but still discharge waste water into surrounding areas.
So how does this impact on society?
Urban poor people have to live in riverside slums with poor hygiene conditions while modern high-rises keep mushrooming. The situation highlights the widening gap between the rich and the poor.
Another problem is that Ha Noi's urban developments are located outside the city, meaning newcomers are separated from long-term residents. Thus, the new urban areas stand out, again highlighting the rich-poor gap, causing social problems.
But urbanisation is causing social problems all over the world. What are the particular characteristics associated with Ha Noi?
Ha Noi has the highest pace of urbanisation in Viet Nam. In 1990, the city had 1 million people, in 2000 1.5 million while now, with the city expanded to 3,300sq km, it has a population of 7 million.
When the city was expanded, land became available for housing, facilitating urban development. However, it also created a burden for urban management because previous land developments were not managed properly and their problems have not been solved.
Another difficulty is that the new subdivisions are far away from sources of employment. For example, people in the Old Quarter don't want to move to new areas because their livelihoods rely on their present house locations. If they move they will be unemployed.
In new urban areas, landowners get a sum of compensation after their land is acquired but few of them know how to manage money properly. They spend the money building houses and buying luxury goods instead of re-investing in production or learning another job. A few years later, they will be out of money and leading an unstable life.
What are the solutions?
It's necessary to conduct a comprehensive study on housing to facilitate a policy-making process to make governmental management more effective. — VNS