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Ha Noi stops felling trees

Update: March, 21/2015 - 09:37
A tree is being chopped down on Nguyen Chi Thanh Road. The Mayor of Ha Noi has stopped the felling of trees on the capital city's street after it provoked widespread outrage. — VNS Photo Le Hieu
HA  NOI (VNS)  — The Mayor of Ha Noi has stopped the felling of trees on the capital city's streets after it provoked widespread media and public concern.

The halt was ordered at a meeting convened yesterday morning to discuss the issue.

A Vnexpress report yesterday quoted Nguyen The Thao, Chairman of the Ha Noi People's Committee, as saying that with his decision, the administration had "listened to public opinion."

He said he has asked the city's Construction Department to set out criteria for trees that are to be chopped and to replace those felled already with new ones in order to "continue greening" the streets.

The project aims to fell and replace 6,700 trees on 190 streets.

The department should review and re-define the criteria for identifying the trees that need to be added to the streets or replaced, and do it according to a step-by-step roadmap, the decision said.

Thao also instructed the department to continue calling for investment to implement the project.

"Only trees that need to be removed for the building of infrastructure as per plans, rotten trees at high risk of falling and leaning trees that endanger traffic should be removed," he said.

Leaning trees that "merely affect urban landscape" and those that are not the "right type" of urban trees can be replaced step by step.

"Replacement will only apply to the trees that cannot be maintained any more," the decision said.

Social consensus

The city mayor also spoke of the need to achieve social consensus via collection of feedback from the public and consulting relevant scientists.

"The maintenance, improvement, supplementing or replacement of trees on the street should not only correlate to the development of a city but also the sentiment of its citizens."

Thao appreciated the media for their "timely coverage of public opinion," saying he wished to hear more of it.

Activist actions

As the city began its drive, many Hanoians had begun to protest the move by marking trees with the words "Do not chop me down."

A website named "6,700 people for 6,700 green trees" was set up and able to garner 35,000 "likes" in just a few days.

Prominent citizens like journalist Tran Dang Tuan, general director of An Vien Television, and prize-winning mathematician Ngo Bao Chau had sent open letters to the administration asking for the reason behind the tree felling campaign, citing the good care of the city's trees by the Ha Noi Green Trees – Park Company so far without having to fell them en mass.

The city organised a press conference yesterday afternoon to announce the mayor's decision.

Deputy Mayor Nguyen Quoc Hung, who chaired the event, was bombarded with questions.

Reporters wanted to know how many trees had already been chopped down, asked for the names of companies involved in the tree-felling campaign and information on the benefits they derived from it.

They also wanted to know who appraised the project and decided on its implementation, where the felled trees were being taken to, where the replacement trees came from and how much they cost.

They also asked if any environmental impact assessment was done for this project.

However, the official only gave a general answer.

The deputy mayor defended the tree felling project and blamed the outcry on "the lack of transparency in implementation" and "impatience of the project sponsors."

"We will provide sufficient information on who is sponsoring this project," he promised.

He denied any corruption or involvement of group interests in the project. He told representatives of agencies present at the press conference to disclose information and invite media representatives to the project sites for observation.

"We promise that from now on any important decision with social implications will be open to the public for soliciting comments and its implementation will be considered carefully," Hung said. — VNS

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