Director of the Hội An Centre for Relic Preservation and Management Nguyễn Chí Trung. — Photo tuoitre.vn
Director of the Hội An Centre for Relic Preservation and Management Nguyễn Chí Trung spoke to Tuổi trẻ newspaper on the imperative need to have strong legal documents to preserve the City.
What has Hội An done to preserve its name as an ancient city?
We have developed five rules to preserve it. First, the rule on effective city management; second is the rule on business law and order; third is the regulation on shops’ bill boards; fourth is regulation on tourism operation rules; and the fifth is the management and operation of activities on its river.
In the past, all five rules were strictly implemented. Yet, the city authorities see that nowadays they are no longer appropriate and we should revise them. The city’s old quarters’ business operation is in bit of mess and many visitors have complained about it. That’s why we deem it necessary to revise the city’s regulations to turn it into an attractive tourist site again.
Do you think that one of the reasons Hội An is becoming less attractive is due to the amount of people migrating to the city to make their living off the tourism boom?
I don’t think so. An answer to the problem is that the city needs to have flexible and effective policies that win the hearts and minds of its population. For example, in the old days we faced objections from quite a few business households during a campaign to make the city clean, tidy and beautiful. As a result, we were forced to use administrative power to force the household owners to dismantle some of their illegal buildings. But, nowadays we couldn’t force the people do something against their will. That’s why we now deem it necessary to have a special mechanism to manage the old Hội An Town. We hope in the third quarter of 2018 we will have the written mechanism available for the Quảng Nam Provincial People’s Committee to submit to the Prime Minister for approval.
We hope that when the special mechanism to manage the Hội An Town is available, we’ll have a strong and effective tool to run the town for the benefit of our people and of the tourists, while still being able to preserve the ancient town
Many people have complained that the newly built tall hotels and restaurants have destroyed the beauty of an ancient Hội An town. How do you respond to their complaints?
I’m sorry to say there are some contradictions between Hội An’s regulations with the national laws and regulations. For example, in Hội An, if an enterprise wants to build a hotel, it must follow certain rules applied to ancient cities, particularly regarding its height, the number of rooms it has, and more. But legally speaking the project owner needs only to follow the national construction law, this has caused some problem for us.
This is something we have to seek recommendation from Quang Nam Provincial People’s Committee about, to create a harmonisation between the local legal regulations and the provincial law to avoid any contradictions that might occur.
Will Hội An find a way to harmonise the local rules with the national law?
This is a tough issue. Some of our local rules mis-match with the provincial regulations. But for the sake of the town’s development, and the fact that they have brought about great effects in real life, we have received support from the provincial authorities. However, things can’t go that way forever. We need strong and effective legal tools that will help us to run the town in line with the national law.
Many visitors coming to Hội An have had a feeling that the city is too small and it needs better planning to conserve the old quarter while enlarging the new areas to meet the city’s development needs. How do you respond to their suggestions?
I agree with them. I have to admit that until now, Hội An has not yet got any long term strategic plan. The Hội An People’s Committee has signed a contract with a Japanese Company to develop a long term plan on its path of development.
Hội An town was upgraded to a city in 2008, and as such it needs a comprehensive plan to encompass the city’s long term development. When such a master plan is available, the old Hội An quarter, with more than 1,000 houses, will become protected from any negative impacts from the outside._ VNS