Legal framework for urban underground space planning need to improved

December 06, 2021 - 08:29

Director of the Department of Science, Technology and Environment under the Ministry of Construction Vũ Ngọc Anh spoke with online newspaper Xây Dựng (Construction newspaper) about the need to improve the legal framework on urban underground space development.


The Director of the Department of Science, Technology and Environment under the Ministry of Construction Vũ Ngọc Anh. — Photo

Director of the Department of Science, Technology and Environment under the Ministry of Construction Vũ Ngọc Anh spoke with online newspaper Xây Dựng (Construction newspaper) about the need to improve the legal framework on urban underground space development.

Can you briefly talk about current regulations on urban underground space in Việt Nam?

In 2009, the 12th National Assembly passed Law No 30/2009/QH12 - the Law on Urban Planning, in which articles refer to underground space and urban underground works. Clause 19, Article 13 explains that underground space is the space that is planned to be used to build urban underground works.

Article 66 of the law states that the exploitation and use of underground space for the construction of underground works must comply with approved urban planning. The construction management of works on the land must not affect the underground space that was already included in underground space planning. 

Article 67 of the law refers to the management of the construction of underground works. The construction of underground works must comply with approved underground space planning. Regulations on the construction of underground works are promulgated by the Ministry of Construction. The construction of underground transport routes and the system of underground public works must ensure safety and be suitable for the organisation, exploitation and use of underground and above ground space; ensure a convenient connection with other underground works and above ground traffic works. The construction of technical tunnels and trenches must not affect the use of space on the ground and must ensure safety in exploitation, operation, repair and maintenance. Under the law, the Government is assigned to specify the management of underground space.

On April 7, 2010, the Government issued Decree No.39/2010 on the management of urban underground construction space, which clearly explains that "urban underground space planning is the organisation of urban underground construction areas to build underground works”.

The Decree also clearly states that underground works are works built underground in urban areas, including underground public works, underground traffic works, underground technical focal works and underground parts of on-ground public works, electricity wires lines, cables, underground technical pipelines and technical tunnels.

In Article 3 of the Decree, there are also five principles for managing urban underground construction space, in which special attention is paid to the second principle "urban underground space must be planned, built, managed and used".

Urban space on the ground development planning must be closely combined with the safe and effective use of underground space. Regarding the ownership of underground construction works, Article 4 of the decree states that the granting of certificates of ownership of underground construction works must comply with the provisions of the law on granting of certificates of land use rights, house ownership and other assets attached to the land.

Việt Nam has had regulations on urban underground space development for more than ten years. However, until now, no locality in the country has introduced planning in this field. Why is that?

Since the issuance of the Law on Urban Planning No.30/2009/QH12 and Decree No. 39/2010/ND-CP on urban underground space management, no locality in the country has yet implemented it, even the capital city of Hà Nội – a city with a population of more than eight million people, is facing many traffic and drainage problems.

In two previous decisions approved by the Prime Minister in 2011 and 2016, eight metro lines were planned in the city, but without specific proposals on scale and scope.

While waiting for an underground space planning for Hà Nội, apartment buildings, apartment complexes, urban areas have been building many basements for parking or commercial space, for example, a three- floors underground facility in Royal City and Times City urban areas.

There are many reasons for the absence of urban underground space planning in localities. Firstly, it’s the shortage of a legal framework that causes difficulties in developing planning.

Objective reasons include the shortage of human resources in the field of urban underground space planning, the shortage of material resources to produce detailed planning, it is necessary to survey geology, hydrology, sociology and environmental impact assessment.

What should be done to facilitate the development of underground space planning?

The Ministry of Construction plans to propose to amend the Law on Urban Planning. I think it’s necessary to have a separate chapter on urban underground space planning to clarify the right to use the surface/ underground and air.

The laws of the United States and Canada state it as Surface Right, Subsurface Right, Air Right, which means that organisations and individuals that are granted land-use rights for a surface area can use the underground and air space at certain limitations.

It can't be infinitely depth and height. Việt Nam’s law says it depends on planning, but we now have only on-ground planning and space planning.

It’s questioned that if the underground areas under public areas like parks and squares can be granted for organisations and individuals to use.

Or under people's houses, if there is a subway line going through, do the government or organisations that use and operate the subway line have to pay people? And many other issues related to Land Law and Civil Law.

From a technical perspective, the Ministry of Construction will study to add technical elements related to underground space planning to the Construction Planning Regulations (QCVN01: 2021) shortly to serve as a basis for developing and evaluating underground space planning projects.

With Hà Nội and HCM City, in the process of implementing urban underground space planning projects, in my opinion, we should invite international and experienced experts from countries with developed underground space such as the UK, France, Russia, Japan, US to learn from them.

Besides, the local government must have high determination to solve this problem as it is a new and difficult job. Underground space is not only a matter of traffic, urban technical infrastructure (serving water supply, drainage, electricity supply, underground storage, underground parking) but also serving the purpose of national security and defence. — VNS