Car park debate not a walk in the park

September 11, 2012 | 15:19
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A Hanoi Municipal People’s Committee decision to make part of the existing Thong Nhat Park into a car parking lot has again stirred controversy.

The committee permitted Hanoi Parking Exploitation Company to build a public multi-storey car parking lot in a corner of the Thong Nhat Park, to ease the lack of parking space in the inner city centre.

The car park will be located on 3,000 square metres with 14, four storey blocks which offer a capacity of 400 cars. Work is expected to start in 2013. However, the plan has faced opposition from historians, environmentalists, urban planners and architects.

Architect Dao Ngoc Nghiem, ex-director of the Hanoi Architect and Zoning Department, said there were still parking lots in the park, which served visitors to the park, but the large volume of vehicles outside the park would harm the park’s environment.

Architect Tran Trong Hanh, ex-principal of Hanoi Architecture University, said that the establishment of the car park would harm the park’s landscape and green space.

“I think that the decision to set up a car park in the park should be re-considered. We must clearly define between park and parking. Those two purposes cannot be combined in a same space,” Hanh said.

“Thong Nhat park is a lung of the city. It should be not served for an economic purposes [of parking lot], instead of keeping the city’s environment,” he said.

In 2009, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung had to halt the Novotel On The Park hotel after a year of starting construction in the Thong Nhat Park due to a public outcry.

Invested by a joint venture between Hanoi Tourism Corporation and Singpapore’s SIH Investment Limited, the hotel was proposed to be a four-star with more than 370 rooms and scheduled to be completed in time for the 1,000th anniversary of Hanoi in October, 2010.

The cancellation was caused by objections from the public, that claimed the Thong Nhat Park was an historical heritage site and the hotel construction would drastically reduce Hanoi’s green space.  

The 50 hectare Thong Nhat Park was built in 1958 and inaugurated in 1961. At that time, Vietnam was divided, with two different political regimes. The park was named Thong Nhat to express hope for the country’s “reunification”.

By Bich Ngoc

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