Urban drift causes big headache

June 18, 2007 | 18:31
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Vietnam must set aside enough land for the settlement of more than six million people who will come to urban areas by 2010. That is a big challenge. I think that we should make detailed plans and exploit land sources in the city centre first, instead of expanding to outskirts and taking away agricultural land

Developers have raced to construct urban areas often without input from local residents
According to Vietnam’s land usage master plan to 2010, approved by the National Assembly last year, more than 110,000 hectares is expected to be diverted into new residential areas throughout Vietnam.
With more than six million people expected to flood urban areas, the country needs another 21,000ha to be developed.
At a conference named “Utilisation of land resources in Vietnam with urban and rural settlement” held recently in Hanoi, Institute for Residence Research deputy director Nguyen Hong Thuc said Vietnam might nearly exhaust all urban land resources by 2010, due to overly fast urban development growth.
“We will need another 21,000ha to serve our increasing population. This figure is not small at all and it is a big challenge for us,” Thuc said.
By 2020, the Vietnamese population will be more than 100 million, 70 per cent of which will live in urban areas.
With the increase in population, the current average land per person ratio has dropped to only five square metres.
The increase in urban land will also put the squeeze on agricultural land, especially for rice production.
“That is why many farmers in Thai Binh province have returned agricultural land to authorities because the land was too small and separated,” said Le Thai Bat, Vietnamese Land Science Association’s associate professor.
Meanwhile, recent urban areas have been divided into many projects. Thuc said in the last three months only, 15 residential projects were started on Hanoi’s outskirts.
Many of those, she said, boasted more than $100 million in investment capital. Those projects’ investors have found the sites by themselves, not under local authority plans.
“This leads to a very serious problem that we cannot have a clear direction to develop our city, to create a new centre of the city, and we will waste our land as well,” Thuc said.
Meanwhile, Thuc said a large area in the city’s centre was still available for development, but had been ignored.
“I think that we should make detailed plans and exploit land resources in the city centre first, instead of expanding to outskirts and taking away agricultural land,” she added.
The Vietnam Construction Association’s Doctor Pham Sy Liem said the conversion of agricultural to urban land was a serious process.
Liem used a recently approved project to build a 180ha golf course in Hung Yen province as an example.
“Nearly 100 per cent of Hung Yen’s population involves in agriculture, with modest a land area. So I think the province is not suitable for developing a golf course, but for a residential area,” Liem said.
Liem said local people, scientists and experts should have a heavy input before an investor can run with a project.
“I consider this investment follows a certain trend with limited consideration to many other impacts on the society,” he added.
In order to solve the shortage, architect Nguyen Truc Luyen, former chairman of the Vietnam Architecture Association, said the first solution often chosen was setting up high rise buildings. He said high rise buildings were a way to save land. However, where they should be placed and how many stories should be built must be strictly controlled.
“We should take the setting up of high rise buildings more carefully and seriously, in order to avoid spreading a trend which cannot be controlled,” he added.
High rise buildings also need surrounding public facilities to support services to the buildings, Luyen said.
In 1998, architect Hoang Phuc Thang researched the planning ability of Vietnam’s authorities. He discovered that with backward planning capability, a detail plan for urban areas of the country could only be available in the next 500 years.
Thang’s above finding is understandable. By the end of 2005, there were only 20 million people living in urban areas. The figure is expected to rise to 50 mllion by 2020 and another 500,000ha will be needed.
According to the figures from the Vietnam Urban Association, in order to supply services for this 50 million population, the country would have to invest $8.9 billion by 2010 and $13 billion by 2020 in fresh water, drainage and waste treatment services. Hospitals, accommodation and schools will also be required.
“There must be accurate measures for urban development in Vietnam now or the country will be fallen into a tragedy of uncontrollable urbanisation,” said Thuc.

By Bich Ngoc reports.


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