Approximately 80,000 hectares of farmland are reclaimed annually to build industrial parks, residential areas and public works. Using some agricultural land for industrial development is essential, however, this has been carried out beyond sustainable limits in some localities.

Evaluating farmland
In early 2008, there was growing concern about the approval of several land projects within only one day by Hoa Binh province, about 80km from Hanoi.

On February 29, 2008, the provincial People’s Committee granted permission to the Thanh Nhu International Trade Joint Stock Company to go ahead with a housing complex project in Dan Lap village, Yen Binh commune, Luong Son district. The same day, the company received detailed plans and an investment license from the committee.

In the former province of Ha Tay, about 15km from Hanoi, a number of decisions to grant investment licenses and reclaim farmland were issued before the province merged with Hanoi in August. Dozens of urban area projects were approved in Hoai Duc district in July alone. Notably, the former Ha Tay provincial People’s Committee even signed four decisions to reclaim nearly 700ha of land for residential area projects on July 30-31 – only two days before the province merged with Hanoi.

The question is why the two provinces were only too eager to approve these projects. With about 80,000 ha of farmland reclaimed every year, no one knows how many hectares of land have been used improperly.

Experts have not ruled out the possibility that opportunists exploited legal loopholes when evaluating the land to corner the property market. They compensated displaced farmers very poorly but raised the price of the reclaimed land to increase profits. That is why so many hectares of fertile farmland have been used for other purposes, leaving many farmers with no choice but to go on strike.

Jobs for displaced farmers
The fact is that it is difficult to create jobs for displaced farmers, as more than half of them are over 35 years old and most of them are unskilled and have low levels of education. Of the remaining half, only 3-7 percent are employed in industrial parks. Due to their simple but time-consuming work and low incomes, they quit these jobs after a while and become unemployed.

According to a report from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, 67 percent of displaced farmers still live by farming and 20 percent are either jobless or have unsteady jobs. Only 13 percent have achieved better living conditions and 53 percent lead harder lives.

The construction of resettlement areas has not kept pace with land reclamation, compensation and clearance. So when resettlement projects get underway, residents are forced to leave their homes. In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, which have a large number of resettlement projects, the rate of households receiving compensation and moving into new houses is very low. Statistics show that Hanoi only meets 30 percent of the demand while the figure in HCM City is 40 percent.

Resolution 26 adopted at the 9th Party Central Committee emphasizes the need to create adequate conditions for displaced residents so at the very least they can attain a similar standard of living.

Similarly, the current Land Law also makes it clear that the provincial people’s committees must draw up and implement resettlement projects before reclaiming land, and ensure residents lead equal or better lives in the new places.

For farmers, land is an invaluable asset and a means of production. So any projects that require land need to be assessed very carefully before being approved.

Source: VOV