Green trees in Ho Chi Minh City are continuously falling victim to damage and illegal chopping while authorities are powerless to step-in due to a lack of specific authorization.
With no official punishments issued by local authorities, green trees across the southern metropolis remain under the continual threat of being cut down.
The most recent case involved a group of people damaging several trees planted along Truong Son Street in Tan Binh District in early April.
The gang of seven men were spotted by the team of officers from the Green Environment Construction Company, the contractor charged with caring for the trees in the area, said Vu Van Cuong, chairman of the firm’s Members’ Council.
The individuals fled the scene after officers asked them to present a permit, leaving behind a truck and its driver, C.H.Q.H.
A total of 17 trees along the street had their branches cut.
The case was neglected shortly after H. claimed that he was not associated to the group of men.
“We have submitted a letter to authorities in Tan Binh District to clarify the case and punish those responsible,” said an official from the No.1 Urban Traffic Management Zone, the unit that manages trees in the neighborhood.
Authorities across the city have also discovered a number of trees being damaged, trimmed, or chopped down without permission.
Some trees were also poisoned with chemicals, such as one on Tran Quang Khai Street in District 1, whose leaves are now abnormally withered.
After checking the plant, employees from the Ho Chi Minh City Greenery Parks Company identified the pungent scent of chemicals on its roots.
Following an unsuccessful attempt to rescue the tree, it is now dying and awaiting removal.
Shortcomings in management
A decree in 2013 promulgated that activities that damage tree trunks, such as nailing, shall be accompanied by warnings or fines up to VND500,000 (US$22), while cutting down or removing trees without a permit could carry VND20 million ($880) to VND30 million ($1,321) in fines.
According to the municipal Department of Transport, these activities are often carried out secretly, making it hard for authorities to gather sufficient evidence and identify the culprits.
Meanwhile, Nguyen Khac Dung, head of the green tree management office under the transport department, stated that the agency was in charge of protecting the trees but not authorized to impose punishments upon violators.
That authorization belongs to the Department of Construction, Dung said.
According to an official from the construction department, there used to be an inspection team consisting of officers from both agencies.
However, a change of personnel caused the group to disband, Dung continued.
The transport department has proposed the city’s administration re-establish the inspection team or authorize the agency to impose penalties that will better protect green trees across the city.