As public confusion clouds last week’s announcement that a so-called ‘master plan’ for an ambitious new urban area in Ho Chi Minh City has 'gone missing,' a former municipal chairman has spoken out on the issue, which he was directly involved in more than 20 years ago.
Thu Thiem, a crescent-shaped plot of land located in District 2 and separated from downtown Ho Chi Minh City by the Saigon River, has for the past two decades been under transformation into a new urban area, serving as an extension to the city’s existing central business district.
Planning for the Thu Thiem New Urban Area began in 1996, when then-Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet issued a decision approving its development.
It has been thought that an urban design for Thu Thiem’s future look, considered the original planning map for the new urban area, was attached to this decision and signed in approval by the then-premier.
This map serves a significant role, as it is the legal basis for the issuance of subsequent detailed plans and for the relocation of tens of thousands of residents in Thu Thiem.
Consequently, municipal officialswere confused when they could not find any copy of such a map, with the premier’s signature of approval, in national archives following a recent search for legal grounds to resolve land disputes with local residents.
Over 60 households in Thu Thiem are filing complaints against the municipal administration claiming their land had been cleared illegally despite not being located within the project’s approved area.
|Vo Viet Thanh, former chairman of Ho Chi Minh City who was in office for the 1997-2001 tenure. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Map does not matter now
Addressing this issue in an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, Thanh said people have been looking for a non-existent map.
“If you are looking for a map with Prime Minsiter Vo Van Kiet’s signature on it, you are never going to find one,” Thanh told Tuoi Tre.
Thanh, who served as Ho Chi Minh City’s deputy chairman between July 1996 and August 1997 before being promoted to chairman for the 1997-2001 tenure, said it was he who signed the city’s proposal on Thu Thiem’s planning in May 1996 and presented it to the prime minister.
Attached to the proposal were 13 maps, dated May 1995, detailing the future look of Thu Thiem, which the retired chairman has since kept safe in his own home.
The maps include planning for Thu Thiem’s transport infrastructure, utilities, functional areas, drainage system, and so on.
“These are all the designs that were submitted to the government at the time for approval for the 1:5,000 planning of Thu Thiem New Urban Area,” Thanh said as he showed the maps to Tuoi Tre.
The root of the problem is that the premier merely gave the go-ahead to the proposal and did not sign any of those attached maps, the former chairman underlined.
|The 22-year-old file containing 13 original design plans of Thu Thiem New Urban Area kept by Vo Viet Thanh, former chairman of Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Thanh also complained that city officials had invested their time poorly looking for the original design instead of addressing the real problem – how to develop an urban area that is to the best interests of local residents in Thu Thiem.
“The urgent task right now should be to restore the good intention of the original planning, which is transforming Thu Thiem into a new urban area that grows in harmony with the city’s existing downtown area to form a complete city center for development purposes,” Thanh explained.
“Above all, the people’s well-being and stable livelihood should be the ultimate goals in doing so. Long-term Thu Thiem residents should be the first to benefit from its transformation.”
Below are the original 13 design plans of the Thu Thiem New Urban Area kept by Thanh: