by Binh Minh
HA NOI — The lack of essential public services, including schools, markets and clinics, in new urban areas in Ha Noi is putting tremendous pressure on the city's already overloaded infrastructure.
The shortage is forcing residents to endlessly commute to sites outside their neighbourhoods, downgrading their lifestyles.
"This creates traffic jams and overcrowds hospitals, schools and markets," said Pham Thanh Loan, deputy manager of the Urban Architectural Institute.
According to a recent survey by the Association of Cities of Viet Nam, eight out of nine new urban areas examined did not have a nearby market, while seven of them didn't have a state school – and none of them had a clinic.
The lack of social infrastructure in big cities like Ha Noi is chronic, but little has been done about.
In the rush to attract investors into building new housing areas, little attention has been paid at the design stage to ensuring these facilities were built, said Vu Thi Vinh, deputy general secretary of the Association of Cities.
"Therefore, in many new urban areas finished years ago, such as Linh Dam, Dinh Cong and Van Quan, there is still a serious lack of kindergartens, schools, hospitals and markets," Vinh said.
A resident from Linh Dam urban area said it was impossible to find a clinic in her neighbourhood and that she had to go to big hospitals out of the area for health care.
"We don't have state schools at all educational levels either," said Ngo Thi Phuong, who has been living in Linh Dam for three years.
Nguyen Y Van, a resident in the Trung Hoa – Nhan Chinh urban area, said the number of residents was continually rising, but there were still no new schools for local children in the area.
"Before, there were only about 30 kids in a kindergarten classroom, now there are as many as 60 or 70. Parents have to register their children one year in advance," Van said.
Loan from the Urban Architectural Institute said many services were either ignored at the planning stage or put "on hold" by developers.
She said many investors refused to invest in projects requiring essential public services because they saw it as a waste of money.
Vinh said their primary purpose was profit. "They don't actively invest in those projects unless there's a strict requirement or subsidies from the Government."
A few private investors have constructed high-quality schools, again with profits in mind. The fees are far too high for average-income people in the area, but make more money for investors.
Vinh thought there was an urgent need for the Government and developers to have serious talks about building social infrastructure in new urban areas in Ha Noi.
The city authority has called for the mobilisation of resources from all sectors to build infrastructure. However, no specific policies have yet been issued.
Vinh suggested that the authority should be responsible for ensuring the construction of the missing schools, hospitals and kindergartens.
Loan said that in the long-term, new residents would lose money by buying an apartment in one of these deprived neighbourhoods.
"Future buyers will not pay as much for a home in one of these areas without services. They not only want a home to live in, but an area that has high living quality as well," said Loan. — VNS