Confusion shadows HCMC’s missing map for planning of new urban area

By Staff reporters   May 4, 2018 | 08:47 pm PT
Confusion shadows HCMC’s missing map for planning of new urban area
The planned Thu Thiem urban area in HCMC's District 2 seen from above. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Many officials suspected the map for Thu Thiem planning never existed but an architect said he actually made it.

Just one day after Ho Chi Minh City announced a map for the planning of the city’s most important new urban area was missing, some officials doubt it ever existed.

News of the loss, which has spread like a storm after it was revealed to reporters by city officials on Wednesday, has raised questions why and how the city could lose such an important document.

The Thu Thiem new urban area in District 2 spans 657 hectares (1,623-acre) across the Saigon River from the city's central District 1. It is set to become one of the biggest international financial and commercial centers in Southeast Asia.

To develop this megaproject, the city had to spend 10 years moving 15,000 households out of Thu Thiem Peninsula to make room for the project, and paid affected households nearly VND30 trillion ($1.32 billion) in compensation.

Yet, the city’s planning department said on Thursday that it has never seen the map before.

In a decision signed in 1996 by the then Prime Minister, this map was not mentioned even once, it said.

In 2008, when households on Thu Thiem Peninsula started to dispute the site clearance and compensation and demanded to see the map, the department once again reviewed all documents it was keeping but ended up finding no such map.

The department subsequently reported the situation to the city’s government and reached out to other related agencies, including the Government Office and the Ministry of Construction, but has so far ended up empty-handed.

“HCMC has reported all the issues to the government and government inspectors. The final answer for whether the 1:5,000-scale map does exist or not will come from the government inspectors,” a representative of the city’s planning department told VnExpress.

Nguyen Hong Diep, a senior official from the Government Inspectorate, said it is “unthinkable that the city cannot find the map” because even if the map is not stored in the city, it should be somewhere else.

He said that “HCMC should be frank and tell its citizens that the map has never existed, and then come up with the best solution for site clearance and relocation.”

An original planning map is required by law for site clearance and relocating households. The city, however, has been unable to show its residents the map, which has sparked lawsuits from hundreds of households, Diep said.

So far, many households in the area continue their dispute with the project's operator and refuse to drop their lawsuits.

At a press meeting on Friday, deputy minister of construction Le Quang Hung said the Thu Thiem new urban area has undergone two development phases: the first one under a 1:5,000-scale map starting in 1996 and then under a 1:2,000-scale map in 2005. The latter map is the detailed version of first.

This makes the map approved after 2005 the only one that is valid for development and site clearance at the peninsula, Hung said.

The map's author

Le Van Nam, HCMC's chief architect between 1996 and 2001, told VnExpress on Saturday that the map existed.

Nam said he was assigned to map the planning of Thu Thiem urban area, which he finished and submitted to the city government to seek the prime minister's approval in 1996.

"The city's government would receive the approval decision and the file, and a copy would be stored at the central government office," Nam said.

He said he has never heard about the map going missing during his time in office, until recent media reports.

Affected residents in Thu Thiem area also insisted that there was the map.

Le Van Lung, one of the citizens that had filed a relocation lawsuit, said on Friday in an interview with VnExpress that he has the original 1:5,000-scale map with the red seal from the city authorities.

He has shown a copy to reporters. As written on the map he keeps, it was made on June 12, 1995 for the planning of Thu Thiem new urban area.

Nam said the loss of the key map will not affect the planning for Thu Thiem because other maps that followed were all made carefully and with great details.

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