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Lack of details led to tree rallies: inspectors

Update: May, 20/2015 - 09:09

HA NOI (VNS) — A lack of public information resulted in widespread disapproval of a city tree-replacement plan, the capital city's inspectorate announced yesterday following an inspection of the project.

Ha Noi Chief Inspector Nguyen Van Dung said the inspection was authorised by the city's People's Committee, and was undertaken seriously, objectively and comprehensively.

Dung said the Construction Department and involved authorities followed all laws on removing and replacing trees when they started to implement a plan that attracted outrage from the public and the media over the past several months.

Chairman of the Ha Noi People's Committee Nguyen The Thao criticised leaders of the tree-felling project for failing to properly inform the public.

"The citizens only knew that more than 6,000 trees would be chopped down," he said. "They were not aware that the city was trying to replace old and decaying trees."

The project should have been carried out in small steps to ensure the city's tree coverage remained the same, instead of chopping trees down en mass, Thao said.

The Ha Noi People's Committee in March decided to halt the landscaping plan to fell 6,700 trees – including some that weren't dilapidated – after it stirred up a public outcry.

Several ancient trees have witnessed the history of the city and have historical value, members of the public argued. The city also hadn't asked for its citizens' input before starting to chop.

Despite the outrage, the inspection showed that those managing the tree removal followed all administrative rules. No violations, corruption, financial misspending or losses were found.

However, inspectors also said the public wasn't given inadequate information about the goals and benefits of the plan. Information wasn't disseminated before and during the plan's implementation, which is why it didn't garner public support, they said.

The plan to replace the city's trees was very important and sensitive, the inspectors said. It directly affected not only the city's environment and scenery, but also its citizens' sentiments and lifestyles. But the Construction Department didn't listen to specialists, scientists and local people's opinions before implementing it.

The budget estimated at VND10 million (roughly US$480) for each of the 6,708 trees scheduled for removal, including the cost of cutting, moving and replanting, had not been rationally calculated. The public said the Government needed to be more specific about which types of trees it cut down.

The chopping, moving and replanting occurred between 9pm and 6am, but citizens weren't informed so they might have misunderstood that the department had negative intentions, inspectors said.

The blame should fall mainly on the Construction Department's shoulders and several other relevant agencies, inspectors confirmed. They urged the city's People's Committee to review and adjust the plan with a focus on disseminating information. — VNS

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