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Urbanisation turns villages into ‘slums'

Update: October, 23/2014 - 08:57
The gate of Xuan La Village in the outskirts of Ha Noi. Many former villages need renovation, an official said. — VNS Photo Tuan Canon

HA NOI — Many wards and villages in suburban and developing urban areas required renovation, Deputy Minister of Construction Phan Thi My Linh said at a conference in Ha Noi yesterday.

Ha Noi and HCM City are expected to have more than 10 million residents by 2025, according to the World Bank. However, millions of city residents had to live in "slum areas" created by rapid urbanisation with little long-term planning, Viet Nam Federation of Civil Engineering Association (VFCEA) President Tran Ngoc Hung told participants.

About 50 officials, architects and international urban planning experts discussed this problem at the conference, which was organised by VFCEA.

Originally villages, these areas became part of the city map as wards and districts as a result of urbanisation. However, little thought was given to infrastructure.

"People have to live in a maze of small lanes and alleys built house by house that block all the sunshine. Flooding happens frequently and fire trucks or ambulances cannot approach the place because the roads can only fit two motorbikes," Hung said.

In Ha Noi, several old villages exist like Cuu Lau and Tu Thap in Hoan Kiem District, Ngoc Ha in Ba Dinh District, Xuan Dinh in Bac Tu Liem District and Vong in Cau Giay District. Some were merged into the urban area even before the French colonial period while others did not join the city until the past decade.

In addition to enduring harsh living conditions, residents in the newly urbanised villages were forced to give up most of their farming land so the city could build modern urban areas and industrial parks.

After urbanisation, many farmers could not earn enough from their remaining land and were already too old to work in the factories, said Michael DiGregorio, the Asia Foundation's country representative in Viet Nam.

"That left them with no choice but to sell the rest of the land for some money and hope that their children could take care of them later," he said. "The farmers were scared thinking of their future."

VFCEA Vice President Pham Sy Liem said the main reason for the existence of slum areas in cities was the Government's bias in urban planning.

"We only focus on developing new and modern areas while leaving the village-born urban areas on their own and wait for a chance to demolish and renovate the whole area once and for all," he said. "Yet that chance never comes and the residents have to continue living in inconvenience." — VNS

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