Nguyen Thanh Nghi, Deputy Minister of Construction, spoke with Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper about ‘green cities' as the key to sustainable urban development.
Has Viet Nam been able to finalise a definition of a green city?
A ‘green city' is generally a city that integrates green spaces. That is, it merges artificial and natural environments.
Viet Nam is yet to develop a specific legal definition for this kind of city. Although the notion of ‘green' is also embedded in legal documents and standards that regulate trees, transportation, water and waste management, it is scattered and not relevant enough to ‘green cities'.
The Ministry of Construction and relevant agencies are pushing ahead to develop standards for green city assessment and guide the development of green cities in Viet Nam.
What do you think of current cities in Viet Nam? How many urban complexes nationwide meet the requirements for green cities?
In my opinion, our country is undergoing rapid urbanisation. For example, in 1998, the urbanisation rate only reached around 24 per cent, only to climb to more than 33 per cent in 2013.
The urban economy contributes around 70 per cent to the national GDP while average economic growth rates in urban areas are between 12-15 per cent, 1.2 to 1.5 times higher than the average rate of the whole country.
On the other hand, it is undeniable that Vietnamese cities have failed to catch up with demand and there are significant quality issues.
There are inconsistent levels of technical and social infrastructure while overcrowding is commonplace. For all of these reasons, the national strategy on green growth for the period of 2011-20 aims to overcome these obstacles and charter a course for stable urban development.
I think the green city assessment criteria will be an effective tool to evaluate and recognise green cities in Viet Nam. It will also help to plan out an investment route to pursue green standards for all cities throughout the country. Of course, it will take time and a detailed plan to make all cities meet the criteria.
In 2008, the Ministry of Construction issued Circular 15 detailing a six-point criteria. This included points on things like infrastructure, trees and environmental spaces, to assess new urban developments.
Under the circular, Ha Noi's Linh Dam urban complex and Ho Chi Minh City's Phu My Hung were both recognised as model urban complexes.
There are also plans to develop new urban complexes in Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang and Hung Yen. These newly built complexes will be assessed and recognised as green cities should they meet the criteria.
What legal avenues are there to enforce the policy on local governments and investors?
What needs to be done next is releasing the city planning standards together with green city assessment criteria, legal documents and policies to ensure practical enforcement. At the same time we need to encourage the development of green cities in Viet Nam. —VNS