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Mar 29, 2023 / 16:44

Hanoi determined to preserve its "green lung"

Hanoi is known to have more rivers, lakes, ponds, and lagoons than any other city in Vietnam, acting as natural air conditioners to maintain a balanced ecology or being the city's green lung.

The Hanoi People's Committee has recently approved a comprehensive list of 3,164 lakes, ponds and lagoons that are now off-limits to reclamation activities, demonstrating the authorities' unwavering commitment to preserving the capital's greenery and environmental sanctity.

 Cau Giay Lake in Dich Vong Ward, Cau Giay District. Photo: Pham Hung/The Hanoi Times

There are 30 districts and towns on the list. Among them, the inner-city district of Hoan Kiem has the lowest number of protected lakes, with only one, while Quoc Oai District has the highest number of protected water bodies, with an impressive 276 lakes, ponds, and lagoons. Other areas with notable numbers include Cau Giay (29), Dong Da (15), Hoang Mai (40), Long Bien (53), and Son Tay Town (199).

Drastic actions to prevent violations

Hanoi is known for having the largest number of rivers, lakes, ponds, and lagoons in the country. These bodies of water serve as natural air conditioners, helping to reduce air pollution and maintain a balanced ecosystem.

However, in certain areas of Hanoi, people's living conditions have been seriously threatened by the illegal filling of ponds and lakes. Urban development zones with high land values are particularly vulnerable to this problem. Unscrupulous individuals resort to various methods, such as dumping waste and illegal encampments, before obtaining land use permits to build permanent housing.

Even inner cities are not immune to this problem, which extends beyond rural areas. While many revitalized lakes and ponds have become important green spaces in the city, numerous other areas have turned into "dead" or impoverished water bodies that are in danger of disappearing without timely intervention.

The breakneck pace of urbanization has also resulted in many ponds and lakes being earmarked for infrastructure and commercial projects, putting the capital's green lungs under constant threat.

According to Dr. Hoang Duong Tung, former Deputy General Director of the Vietnam Environment Administration under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, ponds and lakes are not only natural air conditioners and essential components of urban landscapes but also important attractions that lure both domestic and international visitors.

"The rapid pace of urbanization makes it imperative to preserve the current area of ponds and lakes in the capital. This task is not only the government's responsibility but also the obligation of the communities that live near these bodies of water. These communities must recognize their rights and benefits in protecting the green lungs of their surroundings," said Tung.

He added that publishing the list of ponds, lakes and lagoons in Hanoi protected from reclamation shows Hanoi's determination to preserve these vital resources.

"This initiative will also help foster a stronger sense of duty and community vigilance in maintaining the ponds and lakes and preventing any violations," Tung added.

Stricter management needed

Between 2010 and 2015, 17 ponds and lakes in Hanoi were filled in, according to a survey by the Center for Environmental and Community Research (CECR). As a result, the total area of ponds and lakes in Hanoi has been reduced by more than 72,000 square meters in just five years, equivalent to a lake 1.5 times the size of Thanh Cong Lake disappearing in a short period.

The study was conducted in only six key districts of Hanoi, indicating that the situation may be even more alarming.

Data from the Hanoi Construction Department shows that Hanoi's natural water surface decreased by 203.63 hectares between 2015 and 2020. Many ponds and lakes have been filled to create land for urban development, and people have also encroached on water surfaces for commercial activities and exploitation. This highlights the seriousness of the situation regarding the depletion of Hanoi's natural water resources.

Bui Thi An, an urban management expert, noted that the problem of filling lakes, ponds, dams, river encroachment, land reclamation, and illegal land use has become increasingly common and complex and has not been strictly controlled.

However, the Water Resources Law has protected ponds and lakes and prohibits their filling. "Making a list of lakes and ponds from which no land should be reclaimed is necessary to ensure consistency with economic development planning and to develop regulations for their management, exploitation, and use for biodiversity and environmental protection," An said.

Nguyen Huy Nga, director of the Center for Health Environmental Research and Development (CHERAD), stressed the importance of regular monitoring, reporting, and sanctions to prevent violations.

"Simply publishing a list of protected lakes and ponds is not enough, and local governments must be held accountable if water bodies are encroached upon. In addition, raising public awareness and encouraging community monitoring is critical to protecting these water sources," Nga said.

"Networks, ponds, and lakes are crucial to urban infrastructure development. They serve important functions such as regulating the living environment, enhancing the beauty of the landscape, and providing a venue for the community's cultural activities. Additionally, many lakes also significantly reduce local flooding, making them an essential part of environmental protection efforts," said Truong Manh Tien, Chairman of the Vietnam Water Conservation Network.  

"To ensure the successful conservation of ponds and lakes, it is crucial to allocate clear and specific responsibilities to local authorities and impose strict sanctions for any encroachment or violation. This will help establish accountability and deter individuals or organizations from engaging in such harmful activities. These measures are essential in protecting the natural environment and preserving the important functions and benefits that ponds and lakes provide to communities," noted Bui Thi An.