Inspectors find grave violations in HCMC urban planning

By Ba Do   September 8, 2018 | 02:47 am PT
Inspectors find grave violations in HCMC urban planning
Thu Thiem Peninsula seen from above. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Authorities committed many violations in planning HCMC’s Thu Thiem new urban area, and residents’ grievances and protests are justified.

This is the implication of conclusions drawn by government inspectors after spending four months investigating the planning and establishment of the Thu Thiem new urban area.

Thu Thiem is the city’s new financial center on the Thu Thiem Peninsula in District 2, which lies across the city's center over the Saigon River.

The inspectors said Friday that HCMC authorities, the Ministry of Construction, and the Government Office were all responsible for faults in planning the new urban area.

The municipal People’s Committee decided in 2002 to reclaim 930 hectares (2,300 acres) of the Thu Thiem Peninsula for a mega project, including 770 hectares for the new urban area and 160 hectares for resettlement, but it did not identifly clearly the land that would be revoked.

The government later guided the city in retaking land and resettling locals in five wards on the peninsula. City authorities took 621.4 hectares from these wards without proper compensation plans, the inspectors said.

They said there were many violations in the site clearance, compensation and resettlement process. It was not in line with the nation’s Land Law.

Furthermore, those in charge did not prepare a specific plan for compensation and resettlement before clearing sites, leading to public outrage and repeated complaints from local residents.

Inspectors found that the city did not follow the approved plan in retaking 4.3 hectares from a residential area in Binh An Ward, and failed to guarantee a specific area to resettle locals there.

Even worse, the city approved the use of as much as 144.6 hectares for 51 projects including condo apartments, office buildings and recreation projects on the 160-hectare area that had been regulated for resettlement by the government.

The Prime Minister had in 1996 approved the planning of the Thu Thiem new urban area, but the city’s authorities, the Ministry of Construction and the Government Office executed the project without drawing up a specific, detailed planning map, the inspectors said.

The Thu Thiem new urban area is envisaged as one of the biggest international financial and commercial centers in Southeast Asia.

To develop the megaproject, HCMC spent 10 years relocating 15,000 households, paying out nearly VND30 trillion ($1.32 billion) in compensation.

However, the project has been caught up in a relocation scandal as more than 100 affected families said their houses were not included in the demolition list according to the original planning map drawn up in 1996 and approved by the Prime Minister.

The map was earlier reported to be missing, and controversy has raged ever since. Some officials say the map never existed, but an architect claims to have a copy of it.

Meanwhile, media reports have surfaced about many Thu Thiem residents spending years filing complaints with different government agencies about improper seizure of their properties as well as poor compensation. Many have traveled multiple times between Hanoi and Saigon seeking justice.

In May, some residents lodged their complaints with tears and frustration at a meeting with the city's legislators, which lasted more than seven hours late into the night.

The Government Inspectorate has suggested that the PM guides the construction ministry and HCMC authorities to redraw the map and deal appropriately with individuals or agencies that have committed violations in revoking land, site clearance, compensation and resettlement.

The inspectors have also said that HCMC authorities should review each and every complaint lodged by District 2 residents and redress their grievances as soon as possible.

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