Authorities in two provinces in southern Vietnam will return thousands of hectares of land to rice farmers after planned industrial projects failed to take off and left the areas idle.
Nearly 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres) of arable land in Tay Ninh and Long An—in the key rice-growing Mekong Delta region—will be given back based on a decision to cancel the projects, provincial authorities said last week.
Farmers have continued to live on the affected land but have not been able to build houses or plant new crops pending decisions on proposed industrial projects. Authorities are now encouraging them to return to farming.
“They took the land and now are returning it to the farmers, and we are very happy with this. It is reinvigorating,” a farmer in the region told RFA.
“The planning of industrial sites usually proves to be unsuccessful,” he said.
In Tay Ninh, the People’s Committee, the local organ of state power, announced last week that 1,150 hectares (2,840 acres) in seven towns and districts would be returned to farmers following the cancellation of 23 industrial complexes planned by the province over the past decade.
Neighboring Long An will give back another 500 hectares (1,249 acres), including rice fields that were supposed to accommodate development projects and a golf course, its People’s Committee said earlier last week.
Long An was the first province in the country to return land to farmers. It has withdrawn industrial licenses to return more than 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) of land in total since 2009, according to the official Vietnam News.
Many of the projects were cancelled after no investors came to lease the land due to poorly developed infrastructure in the remote areas, the newspaper said.
Dang Kim Son, head of the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Rural Development think tank, said hurried planning had also contributed to the projects’ failure, adding that the unused land hurts the country’s economy.
“Of late, provinces in the Mekong Delta region have rushed in the name of development to transfer much farming land into industrial sites or … even golf courses. It is regrettable that such projects have yet to bring about the desired results,” he said in an interview with RFA.
“Many industrial sites are left vacant, and the golf courses have a poor impact on farming land. Such mistakes contribute to the inefficiency of Vietnam’s economy,” Son said.
Reallowing farming in the idle land would be an important way to economically reinvigorate the region at the heart of Vietnam’s rice production, Son said.
He said other areas facing similar problems could follow suit in reassessing their plans for industrial projects.
“That the provinces in the Mekong Delta … are returning nonfarming land to its previous status is encouraging. It shows that local government’s and farmers’ aims are achieved—that is, through bringing back the Mekong Delta land to its comparative advantage, which is farming.”
All land in Vietnam belongs to the state, with people having only the right to use it, and their land can be revoked under government orders with appropriate compensation.
Over 70 percent of complaints to the government are about land, the prime minister said in May.
Reported by Nam Nguyen for RFA’s Vietnamese service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.