78 locals living in the ancient village of Duong Lam in Hanoi — recognized as a national relic in 2005 — recently signed a collective petition, asking the government to take back its heritage title since it intrudes too much in their lives.
The petition, signed by 78 locals from some 60 households, has been sent to the local governments and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
It stems from stringent regulations regarding new constructions within the relic area, resulting in locals having to live in tight, cramped quarters. Despite a big purse, villagers find it almost impossible legally to seek a building permit.
And there are those who expanded their houses anyway and such added expansions are now expected to be demolished anytime.
Many who just built mezzanines to slightly enlarge their living space also face the risk of having them removed simply because they look like two-story houses, which is forbidden because this is an “ancient” village.
According to local officials, some disgruntled villagers even came to their homes and threatened to retaliate if they carry out the removal.
According to Phan Van Hoa, vice chairperson of Duong Lam commune People’s Committee, though the Duong Lam ancient village in Son Tay district has been recognized as a national relic for eight years, the local government has yet to receive an official zoning plan for the area from the relic management board, which operates under Son Tay district People’s Committee.
This puts most locals in untold hardship, as they can’t expand or build houses. Many households cram into tiny houses, as they aren’t permitted to build two-or-more-floor houses, Hoa explained.
But Hoa revealed to Tuoi Tre that several local officials are allowed to build their houses with three or four floors.
Commune leader supports villagers
Hoa also noted that people do nothing wrong at all, as they build on their own lands. In addition, a plan to acquire from the government 10 hectares outside the ancient village for locals to build big houses remains on paper.
According to Hoa, the villagers have proposed to the relic management board a model that both meets residents’ living space needs and satisfies the standard for an ancient village.
This model envisages houses that, on the outside, look like ancient ones with tiled roofs but in fact have two floors with adequate modern comforts. However, the relic managers rejected the plan, Hoa added.
“Locals will certainly react strongly and even extremely to any compulsory removal. Though we might be punished, we won’t obey the relic management board this time,” Hoa stressed.
He was referring to the fact that he would not pull down any construction even though as a senior official, Hoa is in charge of the demolition.
Meanwhile, the profits residents earn from tourist activities going on within their village are almost zero.
Though the revenues amounted to some billions of dong per year, the relic management board only gives VND10-30 million (up to US$1,428) to the local government per year and has so far provided financial assistance to only eight out of more than 400 local households.