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Dry season irrigation planned

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has asked 38 cities and provinces nationwide to promptly revise the operation of reservoirs to ensure water sources for low-lying areas in this dry season, especially in vulnerable areas such as the central region, the Central Highlands and the Mekong Delta region already hit by drought last year.

In the document sent to each locality, the ministry directed local people’s committees to oversee relevant authorities as they examine the demand for water in low-lying areas. They were also asked to watch the changes of weather and water flows so that water is discharged from the reservoirs according to need.

Currently, 67 reservoirs and dams are under the Government’s reservoir operation regulations for 11 rivers nationwide.

The head of the ministry’s Department of Water Source Management, Hoang Van Bay, said the regulations had helped provide reservoir water for lowland areas in the dry season and prevented floods caused by improper water discharges.

In the previous dry season, thanks to the compliance with the regulations, 65.3 billions of cubic metres of water were discharged to lowland areas nationwide.

In the central region and Central Highlands alone, the two hardest-hit areas of the historic drought caused by the El Nino phenomenon, about 17.4 billion cubic metres of water were discharged to meet the urgent water demand for daily use and production activities.

However, Bay said, the amount of water only solved drought in certain low lying areas due to lax management and coordination among ministries, sectors and localities. As regulated, reservoir owners must set up plans for discharging water and report to the local authority and the ministry in order to get final approval and ensure that the plan does not contradict plans of other areas. However, not every owner asked for the local authority’s permission, leading to ineffective drought prevention nationwide.

Bay said that in order to solve the problem, the department has set up inspection teams to directly supervise the operation of reservoirs. Units in charge of managing reservoirs were required to supply information and data on the reservoirs on their websites for better management.

Bac Ninh marks 940 years of victory against foreign invaders

The northern province of Bac Ninh celebrated 940 years of the Nhu Nguyet Victory against the Song invaders from the north with a ceremony in Yen Phong district on February 4.

In the 11th century, the army and people of Dai Viet – the name of Vietnam in the Ly Dynasty – waged a resistance war against the Song invaders, with the peak being a strategic fight during which General Ly Thuong Kiet set up a defence line along the Nhu Nguyet River, which is now the Cau River, in the spring of 1077 to prevent the enemy.

The defence line, over 10km long, traversed the areas which are now Tam Giang and Tam Da communes of Yen Phong district and Thi Cau ward of Bac Ninh city. Established basing on the local topography, the line was aimed to prevent 300,000 Song troops.

The fight on the Nhu Nguyet River was part of Ly Thuong Kiet’s combat strategy, which defeated the Song troops.

The Nhu Nguyet defence line is also believed to be the birthplace of the poem “Nam quoc son ha” (Mountains and Rivers of the Southern Country), which was considered the first declaration of independence of Vietnam.

Following the celebration, central and provincial officials and local residents attended a ceremony starting the construction of a temple dedicated to Ly Thuong Kiet. 

The project is set to cover more than 253ha of land with the temple stretching 8.7ha. The construction is scheduled to basically finish in 2017.

Khanh Hoa presents Tet newspapers to Truong Sa soldiers

The Khanh Hoa Spring Newspapers Festival 2017 closed at the provincial Cultural Centre on February 4.

Nearly 5,000 issues of more than 400 publications displayed at the festival will be moved to district-level cultural centres, libraries and border guard stations for further display. Then, the majority of them will be presented to soldiers and residents on Truong Sa archipelago.

The festival, which was organised the Khanh Hoa Association of Journalists in collaboration with the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, took place from January 23 to February 7, drawing thousands of visitors.

MOPI requests US$100 million to cope with natural disasters

The Ministry of Planning and Investment (MOPI) has requested the Prime Minister approve a US$100 million financial aid package to help the central region deal with the consequences of natural disasters.

The funding would be sourced from World Bank loans and US$52 million allocated to Binh Dinh Province with the remainder split equally at US$16 million to the provinces of Phu Yen, Quang Ngai and Ninh Thuan.

The aid would help the provinces recover from natural disasters as well as enhance their capacity to guard against storms, floods and other calamities in the future, the MOPI wrote in its request.

Vietnam plans to digitize healthcare cards

Vietnam plans to issue electronic health security cards to its citizens verifying their right to medical services, the Government Office has said.

Just as a social security card shows that a person has a lifetime account used to calculate their pension benefits, the healthcare security card will make it more convenient for patients to access insurance plans and health care.

The push to digitize the system is aimed at seamless healthcare delivery and insurance across the country.

With the new system, electronic healthcare registries in all 63 cities and provinces will be synced together so that regardless of whether a cardholder changes their job, move to a different place or have pre-existing medical conditions, insurance plans will have to accept all cardholders.

The electronic system will also make insurance payments faster and more transparent through digital transactions.

The Vietnam Social Security Administration is in charge of developing a plan to sync health security, social security and unemployment insurance on one electronic card.

About 75 million Vietnamese people, equal to about 81% of the population, have registered for the national health insurance program. The government aims to lift healthcare coverage to 91% of its population.

However, it is still unclear about how the government will prevent the fraudulent use of the cards or how they will protect the privacy of patients and their medical records.

Vietnam is also working on electronic immunization records that will make it easier to track vaccination data and make sure children get their shots at the recommended ages.

Hanoi man proposes developing mobile app to battle Saigon littering

A Hanoi resident has recommended using a mobile application to deal with public littering in Ho Chi Minh City, a vexing problem that has yet to be solved by local authorities.

Authorities have seemed to be powerless to stop people from throwing garbage on the sidewalk and roadway as well as in other public areas.

Nguyen Duc Nam, from the Vietnamese capital, has suggested making a smartphone app that could be helpful in the fight against littering in the southern hub.

Accordingly, the application will integrate the digital map of Ho Chi Minh City taken from Google, while users will be able to upload photo evidence of any violation to the map.

The images will appear on the digital map, relative to the location of the user, and be processed by a server operator, before officials in the nearest neighborhood arrive at the site to deal with the violator directly.

If the offender has already left the scene, officials will track and punish them later, with hints as the uploaded photos.

The offenses include garbage dumping, public urination, or such traffic violations as illegal parking and driving in wrong lanes.

In order to prevent photo evidence from being edited, the images must be uploaded within 20 seconds after being taken.

Residents will be rewarded for reporting such offenses, Nam stated, adding that the reward could be in the form of prepaid mobile phone cards.

The uploaded photos of violators who have paid their fines will be removed after five days, while those refusing to pay will see their images publicized on the Facebook page and website of the application.

“Designing the app compatible with both Android and iOS phones will cost some VND20 million [US$882], while establishing a server and hiring an operator will require another VND10 million [US$441] a month,” Nam elaborated.

With such an app, Ho Chi Minh City will not need extra surveillance cameras to deal with the violations, Nam said, “as each user will be a street supervisor.”

The municipal Department of Information and Technology has finished evaluating the idea, affirming that such a project is necessary.

The municipal People’s Committee has gone on to ask the Department of Justice and the Department of Police to review the legal grounds for the app.

Colonel Nguyen Sy Quang, chief of staff of the police department, expressed his support for the proposal, stating that evidence provided by app users would help officers penalize violators.

Vo Van Khang, an IT expert and vice-president of the southern branch of the Vietnam Information Security Association, also backed that idea, saying that it is feasible to develop such a beneficial app.

Similar software models have been utilized in some districts to receive reports of noise pollution and traffic congestion, Khang added.

Media praised for contributions to national achievements

The media’s performance last year and plans for this year were high on the agenda of a meeting on February 4, attended by representatives of Government and media agencies.

Head of the Party Central Committee’s Commission on Education and Communications Vo Van Thuong hailed the media’s significant contributions to Vietnam’s achievements over the past year. 

“As the vangard in the ideology front, the media have been very helpful for the Party and State leadership and management. We want to hear prompt feedback from management agencies on issues raised the media," Thuong said.

The public address system, which has sparked heated public debate over recent months, was a topic for discussion at the meeting. Voice of Vietnam President Nguyen The Ky stressed that the system will be brought into full play if it is well managed in both content and timing. 

“The public loud speaker system is essential in disseminating local information in a specific residential area," Ky elaborated.       

The annual meeting was hosted by the Party Central Committee's Commission for Communication and Education, the Ministry of Information and Communication, and the Vietnam Journalists Association to promote innovation and creativity.

HCM City seeks new social housing models

HCM City Party Secretary Đinh La Thăng has urged local authorities to consider implementing a social housing policy that has helped attract more investors in Bình Dương Province.      

Thăng said that HCM City wanted to provide more housing to lower-income workers, but that implementation had been difficult as investors were often reluctant to pour money into such projects.

Thăng asked Bình Dương Province’s authorities during a recent meeting in the province to help HCM City officials develop a better social housing policy. 

He said that administrative procedures on such buildings, which usually contain apartments of 25-35 square metres, could be as streamlined as those used for commercial housing.   

Trần Thanh Liêm, vice chairman of Bình Dương’s People’s Committee, said that 25 out of 43 social housing projects in the province had been completed and put into use, with a total area of 491,000 sq m and an average price of 4 million (US$177.8) per sq metre.

The Investment and Industrial Development Corporation (Becamex IDC) is the main investor of social housing projects in the province, which has 2 million people, 52 per cent of whom are migrants from other provinces and cities.

Liêm said the province, before providing land to property companies to build social housing, ensured that all people affected by new housing projects received compensation payments.

Around 200 enterprises in the province’s industrial parks have built a total of 270,000 sq m of housing space for their workers.

Liêm said the province had issued regulations, as part of its industrial development plan, that require land be set aside for housing for workers.

The province has also streamlined administrative procedures for investors in social housing.

Nguyễn Văn Hùng, CEO of Becamex IDC, said that regulations for social housing eligibility should be adjusted and that anyone who has job but who has never owned a house should be allowed to buy social housing.

The vice chairman of HCM City People’s Committee, Lê Văn Khoa, said the regulated maximum profit for investors in social housing of only 10 per cent was too low to attract investors.

Hùng said that Becamex IDC was not yet earning profit from its social housing projects in the province, but expected to see profits over the long term.

He said that companies willing to wait for profits over the long term should work with the government to offer accommodation for workers.

Most social housing projects in Bình Dương Province are near urban areas and industrial parks, which attract a large number of workers.

This, in turn, helps attract investors who want to open companies and factories in urban areas and industrial parks built by Becamex IDC, the representative said.

The need for low-income housing in the country is emphasised in the government’s National Housing Development Strategy.

Last year, an additional 0.5 million sq metres of social housing in urban areas were built, raising the total area to 3.3 million sq metres.

Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc recently instructed several agencies and all local authorities to improve housing availability.

He has asked provincial and city People’s Committees to provide land and simplify administrative procedures to encourage property companies and enterprises with a large number of workers to build social housing, especially for workers at industrial parks. 

He said that localities must ensure the quality of social housing, as well as traffic, health care, educational and cultural conditions, near the housing projects.

Phúc has also asked the Ministry of Construction to conduct research on new materials to help reduce prices of social housing.

Regulations require that localities in the country allocate 20 per cent of funds received from investors in new urban zones and commercial buildings (of less than 10 hectares) for social housing projects, Phúc said. 

Lang Son comes alive as spring festival gets underway

It is impossible to think of Vietnam without the thought of the Tan Thanh Pagoda Festival in the far northern city of Lang Son during February.

Each year thousands are drawn to the City to join in joyful celebration of the arrival of spring with the annual festival popular for its song and dance performances imbued with ethnic minority culture.

The City and surrounding region also have many historical relics and spiritual destinations along with plenty of wildlife and scenic landscapes, that many visitors find appealing this time of year.

This year’s festival, running February 7-10, coincides with the Tan Thanh Pagoda Festival, which adds to its tourism appeal. During the festival, a broad array of activities will transpire including – the Lang Son Culture and History Exhibition, art exchanges and traditional games. 

Gold thieves to be prosecuted

The police in Cần Thơ City on Sunday proposed that the city’s People’s Procuracy prosecute seven thieves that robbed gold worth VNĐ10 billion (US$442,000) in the Mekong Delta area.

Four defendants – Lý Văn Đợi (53), Nguyễn Văn Điệp (45), Nguyễn Minh Thắng (54) and Phùng Thanh Tâm (43) – are based in HCM City. Three others – Nguyễn Văn Dân (43), Lê Văn Mười (40) and his brother Lê Văn Dũng (51) – are based in Vĩnh Long Province.

The gang robbed 35 gold shops in the provinces of Hậu Giang, Sóc Trăng, Kiên Giang and Bến Tre and 10 others in Cần Thơ and Tiền Giang since the beginning of 2015.

On the night of July 30 last year, the police in Cần Thơ and Sóc Trăng provinces caught Lý Văn Đợi and Nguyễn Minh Thắng red-handed while breaking into a gold shop in Sóc Trăng Province’s Mỹ Xuyên District. Some 263g of gold and the tools used to break in were confiscated.

The rest of the gang was seized shortly afterwards following Lý Văn Đợi’s testimony.

Their targets were gold shops located by the riverside in town. After approaching the shops on a small boat, the gang disabled the security camera systems and broke into the shops using pliers while wearing masks and gloves.

The stolen gold was taken back to HCM City and kept for personal use. 

Quang Nam strives to have 10 more new rural communes

The central province of Quang Nam strives to have 9-10 new-style rural communes this year, raising the rate of communes achieving the status to 30-35 percent. 

The target was unveiled at a local conference on February 4 to launch tasks for new rural development. 

In the near future, the province will continue raising public awareness of the campaigns “All people stay united to build new rural areas and civilised urban areas”, “Volunteer youth”, ”Clean house, beautiful garden” while fine-tuning mechanisms and policies. 

Dinh Van Thu, Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, said the province has rallied all possible resources for the cause. 

Over the past six years, the new rural development drive in Quang Nam has brought about important results. 

The total number of communes recognised as new rural areas has reached 62, accounting for 30.39 percent. They have met 12 criteria for the status, one criterion higher than 2015’s.

More than 200 effective business models have been maintained. Positive progresses have been seen in the fields of culture, education, health care and the environment while political system and social security and order have been strengthened.

Deputy PM urges press to promote innovation, creativity

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam has encouraged the press to strongly promote innovation and creativity in society and of every individual in the new year of 2017.

He made the call at a New Year meeting with media representatives in Hanoi on February 4. 

The Deputy PM thanked the press for supporting the government in building a facilitating government of integrity, and in fulfilling tasks in socio-economic development, national defense and security, and external affairs.

Politburo member Vo Van Thuong, who is head of the Party Central Committee’s Commission for Communication and Education, spoke highly of the press’s achievements last year.

He described 2017 as an important year, which requires journalists to continuously increase their professional qualifications and ethics to fulfil their political mission.

Management agencies should further improve their leadership and management of the press while quickly responding to and addressing problems discovered by the press, he said. 

The annual meeting was held by the Party Central Committee's Commission for Communication and Education, the Ministry of Information and Communication, and the Vietnam Journalists Association.

Binh Dinh builds houses for flood victims

The People’s Committee of the central province of Binh Dinh will build 668 houses for local victims of floods in 2016, according to Director of Binh Dinh’s Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen My Quang.

The province will offer financial aid worth between 15 million (660 USD) to 100 million (4,400 USD) to poor and near-poor families whose houses collapsed and washed away during the floods, with total funding reaching 21.26 trillion VND (935.44 million USD).

Of the amount, 15 billion VND (660,000 USD) was donated by the Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank).

The remaining funding is covered by donations mobilised by the provincial aid board under the Vietnam Fatherland Front Central Committee.

Binh Dinh was the worst-hit province by floods from October to December last year, which left 48 people dead or missing, 756 houses collapsed.

Hundreds of kilometres of roads, bridges were damaged, causing total losses exceeding 2.2 trillion VND (94.4 million USD).

Binh Thuan improves tourism services

The central province of Binh Thuan has intensified inspections to improve the quality of tourism services and ensure visitors’ safe and enjoyable stay during the Lunar New Year (Tet) holidays.

According to the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, during the seven-day Tet festival that began on January 26, the province welcomed 180,000 arrivals, including 80,000 spending nights in local tourist sites, a slight increase of 2 percent from the same period last year.

During the holidays, resorts in Ham Tien – Mui Ne tourist site in Phan Thiet city attracted scores of visitors, mainly international ones, fulfilling up to 90 percent of its capacity.

Other local resorts such as Saigon Mui Ne, Phu Hai, Muine De Century, Sailing Bay were fully occupied during Tet.

Hon Rom, Suoi Tien, Doi Cat, and Po Sah Inu in Phan Thiet city received 15,000 visitors per day. Domestic tourists mainly come from HCM City, Lam Dong, Dong Nai, Binh Duong, Hanoi and Lao Cai.

In spite of crowds of tourists, the room price recorded a slight increase of 10 percent, traffic and food safety were ensured across local tourist sites.

The Department worked with relevant authorities and localities to organise numerous cultural and sports exchanges while ensuring environment protection and service quality.

VNA/VNS/VOV/SGT/SGGP/TT/TN/Dantri/VNE

Dry season irrigation planned, Bac Ninh marks 940 years of victory against foreign invaders, Khanh Hoa presents Tet newspapers to Truong Sa soldiers, Vietnam plans to digitize healthcare cards
 
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