Despite being busy with steering meetings on COVID-19 prevention, Deputy Secretary of the Provincial Party Committee, Chairman of the Provincial People's Committee, Head of the National Assembly Delegation Phan Ngoc Tho still did not forget to speed up the pace and soon complete the houses for people relocating in phase 1 to Huong So resettlement area. In his free time, he visited each household, took people to see their land, and gave gifts to disadvantaged households...
Politburo member, National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan and Chairman of Provincial People's Committee Phan Ngoc Tho talking to Thuong Thanh people. The project to relocate people from Zone 1 of Hue Imperial City has received the support of the National Assembly, the Government and many central ministries
Openly talking with us, Chairman Phan Ngoc Tho said that his desire is to see all people living in Zone 1 of the Citadel of Hue relocate to a new and more spacious place of residence and have a better, more prosperous life. He stated: "People have been suffering much hardship. Now, we must work harder together, to stabilize the lives of our people. ”
The interview was halted at times with emotion...
Sir, currently, the first few hundreds of households have voluntarily returned the land, and the image of spacious houses is appearing in Huong So resettlement area. To reach this milestone, it surely was not simple. Wasn’t it?
Chairman Phan Ngoc Tho: The relocation of people living in Zone 1 of Hue Citadel has been a long-term wish of the people living there as well as the local authorities. However, due to the large scale of population, financial scale, and resettlement land fund, the authorities through different periods had not been able to choose the appropriate solution for a long time.
I remember that before this project, our province had also implemented a number of small projects to move people out of the southern part of Hue Citadel and had met many obstacles in policies and mechanisms. Thus, despite the small number of households, the relocation project lasted for many years.
People living in Zone 1 of Hue Citadel mostly came here during the war periods. Some families came in 1954, then later in 1968, 1970, 1972, 1974... There are houses right inside the relics. Some houses are floating on the water. Things are not that simple when it comes to relocation. It involves a lot of compensation mechanisms and land legislation.
That situation will last forever if fromnow on we are not determined and act promptly. I think that people’s aspiration to relocate is extremely legitimate. The need for embellishment, heritage protection and tourism development are also very urgent. So the relocation posed at this time is extremely pressing.
We had to have many meetings in order to devise the best plan. In particular, there was a plan to ask for loans for site clearance, but it was not feasible. When I was assigned the task of reviewing and proposing solutions for relocation, I felt that it was a very difficult task for me, but seeing such a situation of the people like that forced me to think of a way to achieve the goal: to relocate people and allow them to settle down.
I must say that when I became the top leader of the provincial government, that thought was realized with clear and concrete decisions. In particular, we needed to call for the support from the Central Party, National Assembly, Government and especially Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
There has certainly been a lot of debate about this project,hasn’t there, sir?
Chairman Phan Ngoc Tho: The issue of relocating people from Zone 1 of Hue Citadel is not just an issue at this moment, but it has been discussed for decades.
In many meetings, there were many opinions. I remember, there were many meetings to review the method of doing things and when raising issues, not everyone agreed. The goal is relocation, but the problem was the source of money. What's more is the policy mechanism while the provincial resources are limited. Hue Monuments Conservation Center itself - the unit that will receive land after site clearance is not really interested because the area is too large. As for the Hue City People's Committee - the unit responsible for inventory, relocating people and paying was hesitant because of the crowded population. Every agency asked where would the money come from, when thousands of billions VND would be needed for the relocation. Therefore, for nearly 20 years, a direction could not be found.
According to Chairman Phan Ngoc Tho, although relocation always has large barriers such as finance and policy, without the consent of the people it will fail
When I became Chairman of the Provincial People's Committee, I sat through 4 meetings, and at the end of the 4th meeting, after a lot of time thinking, everyone decided to implement the relocation project. We needed to determine the roadmap, policy framework and resources. In the course of developing the project, we were fortunate to meet and enlist the opinions of the National Assembly, the Government and especially Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. The Prime Minister, when listening, supported the project and shared the difficulties of the people as well as the preservation of Hue heritage.
What happened next, sir?
Chairman Phan Ngoc Tho: One of the things acquired was the earnest wishes and aspirations of the people. Although the relocation always has large barriers such as finance and policy, without the consent of the people it will fail.
After many times meeting me, the people have shared that they felt ashamed to live temporarily, to trespass on the Imperial City’s land, and felt shameful towards the ancestors. But due to circumstances, they had no conditions to move.
Indeed, seeing many families and generations living in cramped, temporary and unrepaired houses made me extremely sorry. That urged me to implement the project, the faster the better.
New resettlement houses in early 2020 in Huong So resettlement area. This is a great result of both the authorities at all levels, and especially the relocating people
The result is clear to see. Over time, by taking advantage of the central government’s support and building our own policies, the first households have moved out of the relics. New houses in the resettlement area are being constructed in early 2020.
The people are happy and I am also very happy and moved when I see their wishes come true. This is a great result of both the authorities at all levels, and especially the relocating people.
Why was Huong So resettlement area chosen?
Chairman Phan Ngoc Tho: One of the questions that people often ask me: “Is the compensation policy satisfactory? Where will we go?" That question of the people is very real. Vietnamese people in general, and Hue people in particular always want to be close to the area which they had left, and move to a place which have secure infrastructure.
From those questions, we surveyed and selected a new residential area in Huong So. Why? Because this site is not too far from their old places, only 3km away, and located in Hue city. This ensures connection, facilitates education, medical examination and other related issues. In addition, the land fund in Huong So is relatively large, ensuring the relocation.
Chairman Phan Ngoc Tho talked with the people of Thuong Thanh in a visit to Huong So resettlement area. Mr. Tho affirmed: "stable life, jobs for people will be a focal concern"
How will the issue of people’s livelihood be approached, sir?
Chairman Phan Ngoc Tho: Sure! In the process of relocation, livelihood is an inseparable issue. We have to survey what people are doing for a living. Mostly, in the first phase of relocation, people mainly worked manual labor jobs such as cyclos drivers, street vendors, small traders ... in many different locations, not where they lived. Therefore, the location of moving from Thuong Thanh - Eo Bau to Huong So does not affect the livelihood. When I asked people, many of them replied that they will still maintain their current jobs.
However, with the desire that everyone can have a stable life, we have been and will continue to guide people in the long term to work in industrial parks, factories and production and business units in Huong So area. I still believe that, during the relocation process, the people themselves will change to suit the new place of residence. I assert that the stable livelihood of people will be our focal concern.
Taking people to see the resettlement land, welcoming the last New Year Eve with the people of Thuong Thanh, and participating in the construction ceremony with them... The people have a lot of admiration for you. As for yourself, what do you think?
Chairman Phan Ngoc Tho: In the process of researching the project, then going directly to meet people, I was very sympathetic when witnessing that they had to live in cramped spaces. Three or four generations lived in dilapidated houses... I myself had experienced many difficulties during my childhood, so I understood what people are facing.
My opinion is: "The happiness of the people is the most important goal of a leader". This view is tied to all my work in the historic relocation.
That thought motivated me to work by all means and enlist all resources to implement this relocation project. Through those meetings, I also listened to the feelings and aspirations of the people to make appropriate adjustments to the policy mechanism. Thereby, I also supervised the work of the local political system.
I consider myself a child of Thuong Thanh - Eo Bau. And, I remember a lot of people names, nooks and crannies there. There are children who are too familiar with me and call me “Grandpa Tho”, or the elderly and young people who call me with the name "Mr. Tho, Uncle Tho". I thank them when they show me that kind of sentiment. The sincere feelings and beliefs of the people helped me and urged me to constantly implement the relocation project.
What is your most memorable experience during the implementation of this project?
Chairman Phan Ngoc Tho: There are two stories I can never forget. First, it was when the National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan coming to work with the province. After that, I took her to visit Thuong Thanh households. There, Ms. Ngan and I witnessed the story of a young man working as a mason with a life full of hardships. His wife left and he was raising three small children, including a mentally ill child. All four of them lived in a dilapidated hut covered with corrugated iron sheets. It made me very sad when in Hue City, there are still people living in such circumstances.
Chairman Phan Ngoc Tho talking and encouraging people to move from Thuong Thanh to Huong So resettlement area. Mr. Tho said, "I had experienced many difficulties during my childhood, so I understood what people are facing".
After that trip, I came up with my own mechanism, which was specifically for extremely difficult circumstances and was unable to build houses in resettlement areas. That is to mobilize support, build houses in the form of giving a complete and fully furnished house at the cost of about VND 200 million. This April and May, the first people will receive their new home. And the young man I just talked about is among the recipients.
The second story that I will never forget is the old lady whom I met on New Year's Eve when I welcomed the New Year with Thuong Thanh People. The lady was over 90 years old but was extremely lucid. When she met me, she was moved when the dream of a spacious house at the end of her life will be coming true. She said: "My life is long and hard, but my children and grandchildren need a home". Hearing that, I was touched by old people like that lady who still hurt, thinking about future generations.
Soon, Thuong Thanh will be returned to its true meaning as a historical construction, a heritage in the Hue Monuments Complex. So, the restoration must also be conducted carefully. Mustn’t it?
Chairman Phan Ngoc Tho: Hue Monuments Conservation Center will be the land management unit after site clearance of Zone 1 of Hue Imperial City in each period. There will be specific plans. It is important to think about how to promote this heritage value well.
Regarding this issue, when I went to check the relocation progress, I was very impressed when I discovered a pit, probably the gunpowder pit which was used to protect the Imperial City located right in the people's houses. In the pit, there were many patterns carefully kept by the people. This showed that they are very aware of preserving the culture that their ancestors have left behind.
Thuong Thanh will return to the role of an inseparable heritage in Hue Monuments Complex with conservation and restoration options to promote value and create an attractive tourist destination
At this time, talking about the exploitation of Thuong Thanh tourism seems too early, but surely,have these exploitation and economic development plans been taken into account, sir?
Chairman Phan Ngoc Tho: I think that there are three major goals for this relocation project: Return the land to the Imperial City for preservation and promotion of heritage values; return the landscape, nature and environment of Hue City; create great and impressive tourist destinations.
Particularly, for economic development and tourism, this is a big problem that needs to be further studied. But basically, we can visualize tours to cater to tourism, such as building large flower gardens in Thuong Thanh, creating shady roads for visitors to walk or cycle and contemplate the ancient and majestic Citadel. In the future, boating tourism, sightseeing can be developed on the unique lake system around Hue Imperial City... I believe, if we are determined, it is not difficult to realize. In this regard, tourism and travel businesses will join hands to promote the heritage values, create destinations, and add more attractive tourist products of Hue.
You had to "ask" for money from many places to help poor people to build houses? Was it uncomfortable for you to do so?
Chairman Phan Ngoc Tho: (Laughs). I asked for support from all sources available. Asking money for the people is nothing to be ashamed of. After listening to me, many units agreed to support and give money immediately...
When people move to their new houses, there must be a congratulatory gift for them, right, sir?
Chairman Phan Ngoc Tho: Yes! I will continue to “ask” and call for support. Any family with children will be given a desk for their studies. Any newlyweds will be given a bed or a wardrobe, or more simply a tea set. Everything is just symbolic, but more than anyone else, the people understand our sentiment.