Opinion
Illegal construction defaces Vietnam's environment
  • By Vuong Ha | dtinews.vn | March 02, 2016 02:48 PM
 >>  Local authorities pass the buck after resort blights national park
 >>  Le Truc Garment Company flout planning laws
 >>  Former police boss, miner, fined for homes in protected forests

From illegally-built houses in Danang's forest to the unlicensed resort a national park in Hanoi, almost nothing seems to be done to deter the abuse of the country’s environment.

 

A corner of the Le Mont Ba Vi Resort and Spa

Last year, police in Danang City’s Lien Chieu District fined Major-General Phan Nhu Thach, former director of Quang Nam police, and mining company owner Ngo Van Quang a pathetic VND22.5m (USD1,000) for illegally building houses in protected forest land in Danang City.

On February 29, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development asked the investor of Le Mont Ba Vi Resort and Spa to only halt the illegal construction of Le Mont Ba Vi Resort and Spa in Hanoi's Ba Vi National Park. The construction was started since 2008 yet the local authorities claim they had no knowledge of the project, saying that responsibility should be on the ministry which directly manages the park.

If the houses in Danang were a case of illegally converting forest land into residential land, then the resort in Ba Vi, invested in by Company For Technology Development, raises louder alarm bells as it is a flagrant abuse of national park land. A national park is supposed to be under stricter inspection yet somehow we are supposed to believe a huge construction including hotels, swimming pools, went unnoticed for years.

Building violations are already a matter of concern in Hanoi, especially in the city centre. Le Truc Garment Joint Stock Company was fined VND100m last year for their Discovery Complex II, located on Le Truc Street exceeded their planning permission by an incredible six floors.

Investors are obviously operating on the belief that local civil servants have been sufficiently ‘encouraged’ to turn a blind eye to their activities. And it also goes without saying that those officials must also be sufficiently powerful to deliver on their promises.

For example, the deadline to demolish the houses in Danang was continually extended. The authorities explained that the first deadline only aimed to put pressure on the owners, then they set another deadline of November 30, 2015. But two days in prior to the deadline, the city vice chairman halted the demolition to supposedly wait for instructions from prime minister and Government Inspectorate as if they the local authorities suddenly lacked the authority to proceed. Meanwhile Danang People's Council had agreed that the houses should be demolished by the end of August.

The punishments were extremely mild given the nature of the abuse and the massive impact on the reputation of the local authority. The head of the district urban order inspection team and ward vice chairman were only criticised. Officials at local forest ranger units had commendations and awards cancelled for one year.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has demanded the investor in the Le Mont Ba Vi Resort and Spa halt the resort construction in Hanoi's Ba Vi National Park, with the Hanoi authorities and heads of the ministry promising to ‘strictly review’ the case and deliver punishments.

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