8,000 Da Nang families live among graves

By Nguyen Dong   March 8, 2024 | 08:00 pm PT
8,000 Da Nang families live among graves
Around 2,000 graves are nestled amongst the neighborhoods of Hoa Khanh Nam Ward, Da Nang's Lien Chieu District. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong
Around 8,000 families in Da Nang live among graves, some of which are situated right in their yards.

The impromptu cemetery in Hoa Khanh Nam Ward in Lien Chieu District stretches across alleys off Pham Nhu Xuong and Me Suot streets behind the University of Da Nang.

Huynh Hung, 51, has been living on Pham Nhu Xuong Street's Alley 22 since birth.

He says before 1975 it had been an agricultural area with the graves of several families amid the farmlands.

Gradually people began to buy land and build homes there.

At first the houses were built at a distance from the graves, but as the number of people increased, they moved closer and closer to them.

A row of houses in Hung's neighborhood now directly oversees graves.

Hung rents out his house to students and workers.

While some people are reluctant to live so close to a cemetery, others, who have been around the place for a long time, do not mind.

Most people living in the neighborhood have low incomes.

Vo Mau Diem, 52, says he bought his 50-m2 house in 2000 for 50 taels of gold then worth around VND22.5 million (US$911 at current rates).

"When I first moved here there were weeds and rats and snakes all around the graves. Every day we had to walk past the graves, and we shivered with fear. But now, we are used to it."

As the number of people increased in the neighborhood, they joined hands to turn paths into roads and clean up the weeds.

Vo Quang Vinh, 51, says of the 153 families living in his neighborhood, more than half have graves either within the confines of their homes or in their alleys.

His house itself is situated between two graves, and there are two others 50 m away.

"I bought the house 10 years ago, with the documents all being handwritten. It cost a few tens of millions of dong. I was in a tough financial situation and could not find a place to live, so I had to make do with the graves."

A grave is located within the confines of a home in Da Nang. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

A grave is located within the confines of a home in Da Nang. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

Twenty years ago Da Nang announced plans, later scrapped, to build a railroad station and an urban neighborhood to the north of the station.

Most of it would have fallen within the borders of Hoa Khanh Nam Ward.

While many people waited for the work to begin, some surreptitiously built houses on agricultural land so that they could sell them later at high prices.

Authorities managed the situation so poorly that thousands of houses were thus illegally built.

Two former chairpersons of the Lien Chieu District People's Committee, Duong Thanh Thi and Dam Quang Hung, were rebuked for the mismanagement that allowed the number of families in the area to increase to 2,000 as against the planned 400, with most living in illegally built houses.

The relentless rise in population in the area has consequences.

Evidently the graves are an irritant, but some also have to deal with a canal along Me Suot Street that has flooded every time it rained in the last two years.

When the railway project got scrapped, Vinh saw people come to the neighborhood to take measurements, and heard that authorities were going to relocate the graves.

But nothing has happened so far.

Bui Trung Khanh, chairman of the Hoa Khanh Nam Ward People’s Committee, says the ward’s 10 km2 area has around 2,000 graves located in residential neighborhoods and outside graveyards, and relocating all of them is beyond its wherewithal.

But in October 2022 the Da Nang government made the relocation of the graves a priority for Lien Chieu District.

The district people’s committee said it has instructed relevant agencies to draft plans for the relocation, adding they would be submitted to the city for approval and carried out in 2023-26.

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