City authorities in Ha Noi have, in principle, allowed the Hoan Kiem district people’s committee to restart controversial work replacing brick tiles on the promenade around its famous Guom Lake (Sword Lake) with blue-stone tiles.
However, Chairman of Ha Noi People’s Committee Nguyen The Thao, at a Saturday meeting agreed with district voters, saying the project should require public input and approval.
The work first began five years ago, in April 2010 for the 1000th anniversary of Ha Noi’s tenure as the country’s capital. City authorities decided to replace the bricks along the perimeter of Sword Lake with blue stone tiles, according to the online newspaper VnExpress.
Not long after just a few sections of pavement were completed, the work met with considerable resistance from the public. Some of the public felt the slippery stone tiles would develop moss and threaten pedestrians’ safety.
Others felt it was a waste of public money as the existent bricks were still rather new. The blue stone project’s cost was an estimated VND40 billion (US$1.83 million).
Hoan Kiem district authorities suspended the work and conducted a ‘mini-referendum’ in the form of a local opinion poll.
According to the district authority, the survey’s results showed 87.8 per cent of respondents supported the work.
In 2012, the Ha Noi People’s Committee approved the resumption of work, but the work was again hampered, this time by a number of ongoing urban planning and design studies in the area.
This past May 22, the district once again asked permission to resume the stone paving. A week later the city’s people’s committee again gave the okay.
At the Saturday meeting with Thao, a woman claiming to be a representative of the Trang Tien Street constituency, which is near the Sword Lake, said the blue stone laid five years ago was beautiful and not slippery.
Nguyen Sam, a voter from the district’s administrative unit of Hang Bong, suggested the work be under the strict scrutiny of local people and responsive to advice from scientists and ministries.
He argued that their involvement would help settle the matter for good, “there will be no more controversy about it.”
Sword Lake, an emblem of Ha Noi and sometimes dubbed as the ‘heart of the capital and the entire country,’ is considered sacred for Vietnamese.
As the story goes, in the 15th century, while King Le Thai To (Le Loi) was riding a boat on the lake, a tortoise surfaced, grabbed a sword in his hand and disappeared into the depths of water. It was said that the sword was lent by Heavenly Gods to the king to fight off Chinese invaders. When the country was liberated, the tortoise took it back.
Since then, the lake has been named Hoan Kiem (Returned Sword) or Guom (Sword) Lake.
Besides the legend, the lake has environmental and artistic value- the old giant trees that give shade and the islets with religious structures foil the modern hustle of surrounding Ha Noi. — VNS