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Hundreds of Hanoians Protest Tree-chopping Plan

Participants hold hands at a demonstration in Hanoi opposing a plan to cut down around a quarter of the city's trees, March 22, 2105.

A plan to cut down thousands of trees in Hanoi has sparked widespread anger in the city, with many taking to social media or organizing events across the capital to protest the move.

About 500 people wearing special T-shirts and carrying banners saying “Tree Hugs Hanoi” held hands outside a park Sunday morning to protest a government plan to chop down more than a quarter of the city’s trees.

Protests in various forms have continued for two days, despite word Friday that the chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee had asked for the plan to be suspended. About 500 trees have already been chopped down, and participants at the Tree Hugs event said they were worried the felling had not stopped.

Wearing stickers on his cheeks, protester Duc Anh said many people were worried about the plan.

He said Hanoians and tourists love the trees for many reasons. They are good for the environment, and there is sentimental value, too, as many of the trees are as old as his grandparents. Healthy trees are also being chopped down, he adds, and this is a great pity.

6,700 trees targeted

Under the $3.4 million landscaping plan, 6,700 trees considered dangerous and unsightly are to be chopped down, according to newspaper Thanh Nien. However, the newspaper questioned what would be done with the timber, which could be highly valuable.

The move sparked outrage on social media. A Facebook page titled 6,700 people for 6,700 trees set up on Tuesday has already attracted nearly 50,000 "likes."

Final-year student Vu Thanh Phong said the trees were one of Hanoi’s great assets.

He said the trees and other traditional things like street sellers were what make Hanoi unique and without them the city would no longer be special.

About a quarter of Vietnam’s population uses Facebook and the social media site has become a powerful tool for social change.

Several participants at the Tree Hug event wore T-shirts connected to a different campaign, also driven by social media, calling on authorities in central Vietnam to stop a plan to build a cable car in Son Doong, considered one of the world's largest cave.

Thanh Thu was part of that campaign. He said the attention on Facebook and a petition forced the government to rethink the project.

“When they considered the factor of environment and economy and they saw that Son Doong should be protected ... they will not build anything until 2030,” he said.

He said he hoped social media campaigns like this would encourage people to think more about other people and become active in protecting the environment and contributing to a better society.

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