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Northwest HCMC: land of disrupted lives, stalled projects

By Quynh Tran, Dinh Van   May 2, 2022 | 05:00 am PT
The lives of tens of thousands of families have been disrupted by projects in Hoc Mon and Cu Chi districts that have stayed untouched two decades since approval.
Northwest HCMC: land of disrupted lives, stalled projects

Costing $3.5 billion, the international university urban area covers an area of ​​925 hectares in Tan Thoi Nhi Commune, Hoc Mon District.

Approved in 2008, it is the most important part of the Northwest Urban Area project, which covers an area of more than 6,000 hectares in Cu Chi and Hoc Mon, to create a modern urban area with an international standard learning and working environment.

Northwest HCMC: land of disrupted lives, stalled projects

Stretching along National Highway 22, the international university urban area has been stuck at the step of site clearance for two decades now.

Some houses in the project area have been demolished to make space for construction.

Northwest HCMC: land of disrupted lives, stalled projects

However, the project has yet to make any headway since.

Northwest HCMC: land of disrupted lives, stalled projects

The Northwest Urban Area was meant to become a satellite urban area with commercial, financial, medical, educational and other facilities, changing the face of the city's northwest region.

But the mega-project remains on paper until now and as a result, more than 56,000 families living in the project designated area have not been allowed to rebuild or repair their houses for two decades.

Dung, 58, said his family has been living in a degraded house with damp, cracked walls.

"Aside from a leaky roof, the house is usually flooded. I had asked for permission to lift the foundation of the house and repair some parts of it several times but the authorities do not allow that."

Northwest HCMC: land of disrupted lives, stalled projects

A family has abandoned their living room, using it only as a place to keep their chickens.

HCMC administration last year asked the central government to resize the project’s scale from 6,000 hectares to 4,400 hectares, but this has not happened yet.

Northwest HCMC: land of disrupted lives, stalled projects

Around 30km away from Northwest Urban Area, the Saigon Safari Park project, spreading over 457 hectares in Cu Chi District, was approved in 2004.

Northwest HCMC: land of disrupted lives, stalled projects

The $500-million project has not been completed because of numerous violations by various agencies including poor investor choice, as concluded in 2019 by the Government Inspectorate.

It said the HCMC People’s Committee did not follow legal procedures in appointing the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden Company as the main project investor. The company was not competent enough, the inspectorate said. It held members of the city's Department of Planning and Investment during the 2001 and 2006 terms mainly responsible for the fiasco.

These days, locals use land designated for the project to raise cattle and grow vegetables.

Northwest HCMC: land of disrupted lives, stalled projects

The 18 hectares earmarked for the Bau Dung residential project to resettle 443 households affected by the Saigon Safari Park have remained vacant almost 20 years.

Northwest HCMC: land of disrupted lives, stalled projects

Doan Van Lanh, 62, has nearly 2.5 hectares of land in the resettlement area. These days, his family still lives in their house inside the resettlement area due to disagreement with the project investor over compensation. He is not allowed to make any modifications to his house or sell it to anyone.

"We cannot move and if we stay, we have to live in this crumbling house," said Lanh.

Northwest HCMC: land of disrupted lives, stalled projects

A map of the Saigon Safari Park that remains on paper.

At an investment promotion conference held earlier this month, Ho Chi Minh City called for and received pledges of $17 billion for 55 projects in Cu Chi and Hoc Mon districts.

Among those projects are the Saigon Safari Park and the international university urban area.

However, both district authorities and investors agree that the investment pledges are a preliminary step and that the municipal administration should make adjustments to resolve several development bottlenecks, allowing the districts to manage their land effectively.

 
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