by Nguyen Thu Hien
HA NOI (VNS)— Rumours that six parking lots totalling 10,000sq.m are being earmarked for the 52 ha Thong Nhat Park, Ha Noi's largest green lung, are flying around at such speed that many residents have began to feel feverish.
Most Hanoians, myself included, are praying for an official to denounce this tittle-tattle, while experts and architects are also holding their breath. They say the projects are unfeasible, unrealistic and point out that a lack of parking lots is an unacceptable reason to decimate a public park. There is no precedent for such a move.
I myself look to the promises and commitments made by our leaders on green growth and development of urban green spaces for a source of hope.
Just last week the Prime Minister stressed the importance of green growth at an international conference.
Earlier, Construction Minister Trinh Dinh Dung said the key challenge Viet Nam was facing was how to support economic growth while controlling the ecological and social impacts of urbanisation.
"The Government will establish a system of sustainable urban centres with suitable capacity and diversity across the country," he said.
A number of agreements on the development of green spaces have also been reached.
When you couple our leaders efforts with the fact that only 0.3 per cent of the city's land bank is allocated to parks and flower gardens – just 1 sq m per person and is lower than the minimum 9 sq.m. of green space per person architects worldwide suggest for a city – there is clearly no way that parking lots should be built in the parks.
Nevertheless, in response to the pleas of myself and all residents, a city leader has just confirmed that the location and size of parking lots in the parks will undergo careful consideration by relevant authorities, bearing in mind the rules on utilising underground spaces and preserving parks.
He also said the public parking lots have been included in the Construction Plan of the Capital toward 2030 by the departments of Planning and Architecture and Transport.
But, it seems this leader is not yet satisfied and has asked the departments to review their plans for parking lots in green spaces, especially Thong Nhat Park, and to once again make suitable adjustments if necessary. The report is expected by the end of September.
Currently, the approved projects for parking lots in Thong Nhat Park include a 3,000sq.m four-floor lot in the corner of Tran Nhan Tong Street and a 1,500sq.m sq.m lot in the corner of Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, while four others totalling 6,500sq.m are waiting for a final decision.
A number of other parks and flower gardens are also catching the eyes of developers keen to construct money-making parking lots.
Ironically, while this is happening the city's Construction Planning Institute has just publicized a draft plan of the city's parks and lakes toward the year of 2030.
Under this plan, the institute has backed a main solution to focus on preserving, improving and enlarging the existing parks.
Encouragingly, lots of new parks and flower gardens will be set up in replace of 200ha of factory land currently blighting the city's outskirts.
What wonderful ideas! This means the area of parks will double to more than 400ha by the year of 2030.
But there is no way this can be realised when our existing parks are being savaged for the parking lots.
It is impossible to comprehend the reason cited by the city's top official that the parking lots are being made to cater for the increasing number of cars.
The authorities make it sound as though they've been forced to do this, but how can they not realise that catering for cars will encourage even more people to buy them?
I just wonder whether the same reason will be used for the continuous encroachment on the existing parks and the inevitable failure to build new parks in the future.
This reminded me of a case a few years ago, when more than 1,000sq.m of Thong Nhat Park was going to be used to build a five-star hotel. Fortunately, the leader of the city made a timely intervention due to vociferous public opposition.
Is it worth swapping precious green spaces for parking lots or hotels? If not, why has such an initiative kept being put forward and implemented?
We are talking about climate change every day and complaining about the increasing pressures of urbanisation, while making commitments towards green growth and green spaces. But our actions are completely different.
When we are unable to keep even the simplest of promises, why bother making them? — VNS