Overcrowding and construction leads to encroachment of Hanoi’s cultural and sacred sites

Up to a quarter of Hanoi’s cultural and sacred sites – usually temples and pagodas – are being “desecrated” because of the encroachment of people who build their houses or set up shop near them.

Capital treasures fall victim to development [Link no longer active]
Viet Nam News, 18 Feb 2008

Despite being considered sacred and cultural places that must be respected, many temples and pagodas are disappearing under a sea of homes and shops. Many of them are just lean-to additions.

The land surrounding Van Phuc Temple in Ba Dinh District, listed for 20 years as a national heritage building, has been narrowed down by the construction of homes. No public organisations objected to the encroachments.

The People’s Committee in Ba Dinh District, instead of providing solutions or punishing householders who violate heritage-preservation regulations, actually granted permission for construction.

The situation seems to be easily prevented – just don’t allow permits for construction within a certain radius of cultural sites – so it’s a shame to see what are supposed to be temple sites have their sacredness taken away from them. But perhaps the situation’s indicative of larger socio-economic forces out there? Larger population, pehaps? Would any readers based in Vietnam care to comment?

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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