Hanoi at risk of losing Japanese funding if roadworks don't start by end of July: mayor

By VnExpress   June 23, 2017 | 09:33 pm GMT+7
Hanoi at risk of losing Japanese funding if roadworks don't start by end of July: mayor
Hanoi currently has over 4,000 decades-old African mahogany trees. Photo by VnExpress/Ba Do

Authorities are trying to justify why over 1,000 trees will be cut down for the sake of the capital's development.

The mayor of Hanoi has sought to defend a controversial plan to axe 1,300 African mahogany trees along Pham Van Dong Street at a meeting between a parliamentary delegation and constituents in Hoan Kiem District.

“The expansion of the road aims to prevent traffic congestion," Nguyen Duc Chung, the chairman of the Hanoi's People's Commitee, was quoted by Phap Luat (Law) online newspaper as saying at the meeting on Friday. Chung is also a legislator representing residents of Hoan Kiem District.

"The Ministry of Transport needs to start construction of the overpass before July 31, otherwise Japan will withdraw the Official Development Assistance it has pledged for the project,” Chung said. But he stopped short of the specific amount of the Japanese aid.

Most of the trees along Pham Van Dong Street are over 20 years old with diameters of around 3 meters (10 feet) and roots reaching as deep as 1.5 meters, making it difficult to replant them elsewhere, according to Chung.

Hanoi would only be able to replant healthy, straight trees in the city's parks. The remaining trees would be used for timber, he said.

Chung also said the city would calculate the most economically efficient way of moving the trees, and report back to the public.

Residents also raised their concerns at the meeting regarding the city's dwindling green spaces and the filling in of its many lakes and ponds. Some said this had led to the heat wave that hit Hanoi earlier this month.

The city currently has 272 lakes covering 1,631 hectares (4,030 acres), according to Chung.

The city launched a cleanup operation to save its lakes and ponds from pollution in March 2016, and 122 lakes have been cleaned up so far. Hanoi also plans to build 25 new parks and 25 new lakes by 2020, he reported.

Regarding green space, Hanoi had 6.7-6.8 square meters of trees per person at the end of 2015, and is aiming to reach 10 square meters per person by 2020, Chung said. To reach this target, the city has launched a project to plant 1 million trees, with 320,000 new trees planted since 2016.

“For economic and transportation development, sometimes we have to cut down old trees,” Chung said at the meeting.

In early June, Hanoi was hit by a scorching heat wave, with temperatures reaching above 42 degrees Celsius. Many people blamed the record high temperatures on urbanization. Development projects have resulted in thousands of trees being cut down, and many of Hanoi's lakes and ponds being filled in.