Living like prehistoric men, Duong Lam villagers cry for help

VietNamNet Bridge - "It’s miserable! Help us, please!" is the cry of many people in the ancient village of Duong Lam, a national relic.


duong lam, ancient village, construction, cry for help, relic


Return the title of national relic!

78 people of 60 households in Duong Lam ancient village signed in a petition to return the title national relic. VietNamNet’s reporters paid a visit to the village to learn about the case.

When Duong Lam became a national relic in 2005, the village has to observe the Heritage Law. All households in the village have not licensed to build anything.

It is worth mentioning that the village's population is increasing, but local people are not allowed to construct or enlarge their own home. Many houses have up to three couples sharing a room of just over 10m2.

Not enough beds, babies sleep with their parents while bigger kids have to lie on the ground. There are many families use a single room as their bed room, their kitchen and their living room.

"I cannot understand why in the modern time we have to cook bedside our bed. The room is small but up to three generations shares it, like in the prehistoric age. Do you want to live like this?" a local resident questioned.

We cannot take it anymore!

This is not the first time people in the ancient village of Duong Lam cried for help. Two years ago, the villagers did the same thing and the story about Duong Lam heat up the media.

Recently the story about the ancient village has once again returned to the local newspapers when nearly 100 locals signed a petition to return the “national relic” title. The petition was sent to the Son Tay Town People's Committee, the People's Committee of Ha Noi and the Bureau of Cultural Heritage on April 30.

The petition wrote: "We do not have freedom to repair or expand our houses, on the land of our families. It has been nearly 10 years that the Duong Lam commune authorities and a number of people in the village management board have rummaged around the village to see whether any household buy bricks or cement to cut power and water supply and ultimately to destroy their building works.”

“The population of our village keeps increasing every year while the area is still the same. The only way to overcome that difficulty is building multi-storey houses but we are not allowed to do it. We do not actually understand about that prohibition...”

“When we heard through the village’s radio that our village was recognized as a national relic, we were glad because we thought that the country was interested in our village. The local officials said that our village would attract tourists and local people would benefit from it but since then, only eight families have been invested to preserve their houses. The remaining 400 households have not benefited from that title at all. Our concern has been nurtured for nearly 10 years and now we cannot take it anymore. Therefore we hereby wrote this petition to return to the national relic title."

A resident of Duong Lam village told VietNamNet that in fact, those who that those who own really old houses benefit a lot. Besides the monthly financial allowance, they can also gain significant amounts from the homestay services. However, the number of truly old houses is very small. Most of the houses in the village are not listed as ancient houses to enjoy the preservation policy but they are not allowed to be repaired. This is the major problem.

It is not easy to return the title

VietNamNet contacted Mr. Tran Dinh Thanh, a senior official from the Cultural Heritage Department to ask about the petition of the Duong Lam villagers. He said that by May 8, the agency did not receive the petition so he could not talk about the case. We also called the Director of the Heritage Management Agency but failed.

Meanwhile, Mr. Phan Dinh Tan, the spokesman of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said that the Ministry and relevant agencies were working on this issue. He confirmed that it is not at the villagers’ will to take or return the national relic title.

Prof., Dr. Luu Tran Tieu, Chairman of the National Board of Cultural Heritage said that a place that is recognized as a national heritage site is the recognition, the honor of the today's generation to the predecessors who contributed for the country. He said he sympathized with the concerns of many people living in the village. However, under the provisions of the Heritage Law, the original element must be respected.

"People have the right to express their aspirations but they have to observe the law. The repair must ensure the original value of the relic," he said. Prof. Luu cited the good example of Hoi An ancient town in preserving the relic and taking care of the lives of the locals.

"This problem must be resolved in an overall way, with a master plan to conserve the relic and to help the locals to live with it," Prof. Tieu added.

The construction must comply with the Heritage Law

Mr. Pham Hung Son, chief of the Duong Lam ancient village management board, said: "We have not received the petition and we do not know where the petition was sent to. However, Duong Lam was recognized as a National Monument in 2005 and it has become national asset."

He said that the petition only represented only some people, not the entire community because there are 1,500 households living in the relic.

He said the construction in the village must follow the Heritage Law. "We know the difficulty of local people but by law, they must preserve the heritage in status quo and the building activities must be under the direction of the Hanoi People's Committee or the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism."

Son said the local government is building a resettlement area and providing funds for repairing some ancient houses in the village. He also said that the village management board had proposed to raise the ticket fares to the village from VND20,000 ($1) to VND40,000 ($2). Part of the ticket fares will be invested in the restoration.

duong lam, ancient village, construction, cry for help, relic

The house of Mrs. Phan Thi Tuyet in Duong Lam ancient village has eight members, including Mrs. Tuyet, two couples who are her children and three children. Tuyet’s daughter in law is pregnant so the house will have a new member very soon.



duong lam, ancient village, construction, cry for help, relic

This room has only two beds so four family members have to sleep on the ground. 

duong lam, ancient village, construction, cry for help, relic

The damaged roof.

duong lam, ancient village, construction, cry for help, relic

When it rains at night, the whole family will be insomnia.



duong lam, ancient village, construction, cry for help, relic

The walls of the house have cracks.


duong lam, ancient village, construction, cry for help, relic

Two couples who are Tuyet’s children now share a room.


duong lam, ancient village, construction, cry for help, relic

Mr. Hanh’s house. The room where he works is also the family's living room.


duong lam, ancient village, construction, cry for help, relic

Hanh’s family has only four members. His eldest son sleeps in a small room which is separated with the main room by a thin wall.


duong lam, ancient village, construction, cry for help, relic

In the hot summer days, Hanh has to sleep on the ground to make room for his wife and his 3-year-old son.



duong lam, ancient village, construction, cry for help, relic

The house of Mr. Phan Van Toan has 12 people. The largest room is less than 15m2, with three beds.



duong lam, ancient village, construction, cry for help, relic

Because the family does carpentry right at their home, they have no space for a kitchen so everyday cooking is conducted at the door.



duong lam, ancient village, construction, cry for help, relic

Mr. Phan Van Tuan’s family has six people including two seniors, one young couple and two children.



duong lam, ancient village, construction, cry for help, relic

The family has only one room so they do everything in the room. The whole family sleeps on a bed and a camp-bed. The only wardrobe is not enough room to store all clothes so clothes are put into plastic bags at the end of the bed.


Hanh Phuong - Nguyen Hoang

duong lam, ancient village, construction, cry for help, relic
 
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