Planners in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi have been plotting the city’s growth as an urban center. Already the country’s second largest city, Hanoi aspires to spread its urban influence into its rural surroundings.
To that end, the Ha Noi Urban Planning and Development Association has drawn up plans to build five new satellite cities in the areas around Hanoi. Housing projects and infrastructure work is already underway, and will continue through 2030. These urban islands are intended to help Hanoi become a more powerful center of urban economic activity.
The only problem is that nobody wants to move there.
According to this article from Viet Nam News, few people or businesses have committed to moving. Some blame insufficient investment and rising infrastructure costs.
Each of the cities is intended to have an economic theme, a tactic aimed at making it easier to attract certain businesses and industries to the new cities. “Hoa Lac will focus on science, technology and training; Son Tay will be a city of culture, history, resorts and tourism; Xuan Mai will specialise in services and support industries and handicrafts; Phu Xuyen will be a hub for industry and transport; while Soc Son will specialise in services for Noi Bai International Airport,” according to Viet Nam News.
But as of now, the cities have struggled to lure people and businesses, despite expenditures on infrastructure linking the new cities to the center of Hanoi. Other projects, meanwhile, have stalled or failed.
Thang Long Boulevard, linking the city centre with districts to the west has been open for a year but no significant change has been seen in the new Hoa Lac urban area, which the road runs through.
Within the boundary of Hoa Lac New Urban Area, the construction of National University has been held up for decades, despite investment totalling trillions of dong. Another project involving ethnic cultural villages in Viet Nam on hundreds of hectares of land in Hoa Lac High Tech Zone has yet to be put into practice.
Meanwhile, Nguyen Doan Hoan, chairman of Thach That District People's Committee, said a plan to develop Hoa Lac New Urban Area launched 10 years ago still lacked adequate investment.
The areas being planned for these new satellite cities are mainly agricultural, with the residents mostly farmers making about $950 a year. Some critics argue that the new cities won’t attract rural farmers if there aren’t jobs – especially jobs that would make for an easy transition from rural to urban life.
By 2020, Hanoi is expected to have a population of 9 million, 3 million of which being farmers. Building cities and expecting people to move right in is an approach that doesn’t seem to be working. How Hanoi and other cities accommodate rural populations while addressing their own urban growth will be a challenge for the foreseeable future.