Donor’s jaw sagged as Hanoi leader blames sponsors for controversial mass logging

Donor’s jaw sagged as Hanoi leader blames sponsors for controversial mass logging

One of the donors who provided funds for carrying out a plan – now suspended – to cut down thousands of trees and replace them with new varieties in Hanoi has expressed their shock at hearing a capital leader pass the buck to them when meeting with public objections.

A representative of lender VPBank told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Saturday that it was all stunned by a statement from the deputy chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee that the recent mass tree cutting was done following pressure from those who contributed money to execute the plan.

VPBank underscored that its donation was meant to grow new trees, not to chop down old ones, and that the lender will work with local authorities to clarify the statement made by Deputy Chairman Nguyen Quoc Hung.

Deputy Chairman Nguyen Quoc Hung speaks at a press meeting in Hanoi on March 20, 2015. Photo: Tuoi Tre

At a press meeting on Friday, Hung told reporters that the tree lopping plan was the right policy of the city, correctly pursuant to procedures and regulations.

The meeting was organized amid fierce protests from the public against the hasty implementation of the plan and the felling of many old and green trees, whereas Hanoi leaders had said they would only lop decaying trees and those inclined to fall to the ground unexpectedly.

Hung told the meeting that all this resulted from pressure from those who had supplied funding for the plan, including VPBank, Vingroup, Binh Minh Co., the local police, and some other individuals and organizations.

Tran Tuan Viet, director of marketing and media relations at VPBank, said the bank only sponsored the planting of trees on Nguyen Chi Thanh Street, not the tree-cutting work there.

The bank neither demanded any benefits nor asked for brand promotion in return for the funding for the plan, Viet said.

VPBank supported the plan after an appeal from Hanoi authorities, as the bank is headquartered in the capital city, he elaborated, adding that the sponsorship is made up of contributions by its employees.

“I myself was shocked when knowing of the statement that the trees were cut down due to pressure from us, the donors. It seems we have turned from tree planters into illegal loggers,” he complained.

“Certainly early next week, VPBank will work with the Hanoi administration to clarify how the bank’s funding has been used,” Viet stressed.

Vingroup, a real estate developer, has also said that it expected to help the city grow more trees when donating VND840 million (US$39,500) to sponsor the plan late last year, according to news website VnExpress.

Le Khac Hiep, vice chairman of Vingroup, further explained that the amount was meant to upgrade the tree system on Hue and Hang Bai Streets, noting that the group has no projects on those streets.

Many trees were chopped down along Nguyen Chi Thanh Street in Hanoi as part of a plan to lop thousands of trees and replace them with new varieties. The plan has been suspended given public protests. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Before formulating the plan, Hanoi authorities directed the Department of Construction and Hanoi Green Trees-Park Co. Ltd. to launch a survey in 2014.

The capital has about 120,000 trees of 70 kinds, Nguyen Thinh Thanh, the spokesperson of the People’s Committee, said, adding the survey found out that 6,700 trees are aged, decaying or encroaching on the streets, of which a lot of large and tall trees are posing a threat to people and vehicles as they can fall at any time.

The department thus proposed the People’s Committee replace these 6,700 trees from 2015 to 2017 at an estimated cost of around VND60 billion ($2.82 million).

But since the city started carrying out the plan this week, many people have protested it because those having been felled – as many as 500 – included trees that were still growing well.

Several ancient trees that have witnessed the history of the capital and are therefore of great historical value would also be chopped down in accordance with the plan, Vietnamplus reported, saying it was one of the reasons for the public outcry.

Many people have pasted the appeal “Do Not Cut Me” on the trunks of many trees around the city, and set up a Facebook page, “6,700 People for 6,700 Trees,” which attracted more than 49,200 “likes” as of Sunday.

The Hanoi administration has suspended the implementation of the plan and demanded relevant agencies review it given such vehement opposition.

Suspensions, inspection

The chairman of the People’s Committee of Hanoi has ordered the Department of Construction to suspend many officials pending an inspection of the tree chopping work.

Following a meeting on Sunday, chairman Nguyen The Thao directed that Le Van Duc, the director of the department, discipline those involved in the felling of the trees, including the vice director who is directly in charge of the chopping plan.

The construction department is also required to temporarily remove managers, deputy managers, and other staff members who had a role in the chopping down of the trees, waiting for the inspection to be carried out.

Chairman Thao put together an inspection team today which will do its work and submit a report to the committee within 30 days.


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