Hanoi downtown upgrade a mess, public infrastructure not prioritized

By Vo Hai   November 22, 2022 | 05:57 am PT
Hanoi downtown upgrade a mess, public infrastructure not prioritized
Aerial view of multiple skyscrapers at the Nguyen Tuan-Le Van Luong-Hoang Minh Giam intersection in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh
With skyscrapers instead of public infrastructure rising up from land lots of buildings relocated from Hanoi’s downtown areas, the capital’s urban planning seems to be missing in action.

At a Monday conference on the Law on the Capital organized by the Hanoi People’s Committee and the Ministry of Justice, participants said relocating facilities and factories away from downtown areas was happening very slowly.

Furthermore, the land lots created by buildings that have relocated have given rise to skyscrapers instead of public infrastructure the city should have prioritized, they said.

Hanoi has reserved land areas in Tay Ho, Me Tri and Nam Tu Liem districts for housing headquarters of ministries and relevant administrative entities.

But of nine ministries and administrative entities which have completed their relocation process, seven continue using their headquarters in the old location, while the other two have agreed to convert their old location's land use for housing and high-rise office construction, the conference heard.

Among the hospitals targeted for relocation, only the Hanoi University of Public Health agreed to move, but after the relocation was done, the land plot left behind was converted into a high-rise complex on Giang Vo Street in Ba Dinh District.

The K Hospital and the National Hospital of Endocrinology continue to use their old buildings, despite having constructed new facilities.

Regarding the relocation of industrial production facilities, Hanoi was considering 21 projects that would move factories with a total area of over 140,000 m2 away from downtown areas, the conference heard.

However, here too, the land plots left behind were used for housing projects and skyscrapers. On Nguyen Trai and Nguyen Tuan streets of Thanh Xuan District, the sites that hosted facilities for the Mua Dong textile factory or the Thong Nhat bicycle company have become large-scale housing projects and malls with high density.

Traffic congestion on Hanois Nguyen Trai Street, which is home to many skyscrapers built on land planned for public works. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

Traffic congestion on Hanoi's Nguyen Trai Street, which is home to many skyscrapers built on land planned for public works. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

The original relocation plan was broadly this: Hanoi would lay out a map for businesses and government agencies to relocate away from the city center and the central government would allocate funds for these units to set up offices/buildings in the new locations. The vacated land would be used for parks and public facilities.

However, since the state budget disbursement has been slow, the relocating units had high-rise structures built on their original locations to have funds to set up offices in the new locations, explained Hanoi People’s Committee Chairman Tran Sy Thanh.

Thanh said Hanoi could cover the cost of constructing new buildings and facilities if it was allowed to retain a bigger portion of land-related revenues, like taxes and land use fees.

As evidence of Hanoi's infrastructure being overloaded due to the increase in its population, Thanh said the number of students in Hanoi has risen from 2.1 million in 2021 to 2.2 million in 2022.

"Every morning, 2.2 million students go out on to the streets. Five percent use the same vehicles, while the other 95% are taken to schools by their parents, either on cars or motorbikes," he said, adding that the sheer number of people and vehicles exerted a heavy burden on the city's socio-economic infrastructure.

Thanh said city authorities were discussing adjustments to the Hanoi’s development plan until 2030 with vision extended to 2050, and in this process, questions about the city’s capacities and infrastructure thresholds were being asked.

Policymakers face the dilemma of Hanoi aiming to be popular destination for tourists and to attract talents from all over the country and the world, while considering that it would also have to deal with overpopulation that could occur on the way to achieving these goals, the conference heard.

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