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Dutch help save city from sea

Update: April, 13/2013 - 09:18

With assistance from foreign experts, HCM City incorporates climate change into its planned seaward expansion

On this programme, Associate Professor and director general of the Ho Chi Minh City Institute for Development Studies Nguyen Trong Hoa had a talk with the newspaper Thoi bao Kinh te Viet Nam (Viet Nam Economics Times). The programme was first introduced in 1993, but this time it is included with climate change adaptation. Will you please further elaborate on that development strategy?

The idea of expanding the city toward the sea has been well expressed in the city's planning. I remember back then. It was the time Viet Nam started to integrate internationally.

The idea of expanding seaward seemed a bit flimsy. In 1998, some adjustments were made to the 1993 plan and things became clearer.

Proof of that was the green light given by the then Prime Minister Phan Van Khai to develop the Sai gon South New Urban Area, the Tan Thuan Processing Zone, the Hiep Phuoc Industrial Park and the Can Gio District's development plan and others.

Then two years later in 2010, city authorities decided to build the Hiep Phuoc port - urban area. During the preparation period for the area, the city received strong support from Japanese experts. The most difficult challenge facing the developers at that time was how to cope with flooding as the land there was in a low area.

It is said that Viet Nam is one of the five countries that will be seriously affected by the sea level rise due to rapid melting of the Arctic ice and weather extreme. HCM City is no exception. This has led to the development of various scenarios covering climate change impacts on the city.

In March, a strategic report on the programme of city development moving seawards was made public. It was the result of co-operation between Vietnamese and Dutch experts.

On Monday, leaders of HCM City and Rotterdam signed a memorandum on co-operation in climate change adaptation for 2013-15.

According to the Vice Chairman of the City People's Committee, Nguyen Huu Tin, research needs to be carried out on for another 10 years after this to enhance drainage and management of the city's river systems.

"The co-operation between HCM City and Rotterdam will be the basis for developing a long term and sustainable strategic partnership between the two nations," said Tin.

Before the deal was struck, joint research was carried out by the city and international organisations. Can you sum this up?

Several studies were conducted, yet none of them dealt with climate change adaptation. This is the first time we talk in detail about this. We all know that the Netherlands has a lot of experience in dealing with rising sea levels, as one sixth of its territory is below the sea level.

This is a good chance for Viet Nam, particularly, HCM City to learn from their experiences. I have to say that the studies done by the Dutch experts are very scientific and comprehensive. The experiences they have shared with us are practical and specific for each period of economic development - short, medium and long term plans from now till 2025.

Will you give some detail about their support and assistance?

Commenting on the city's strategic development from now till 2025, the Netherlands has come up with six strategic directions which are of great value.

First, they tell us the strategy should be based on real conditions, for example, the construction of new urban areas in the north-west and east of the city. Then we must remember about the weak soil south of the city if we want to build a sea port and supporting facilities over there.

Second, the city will move step by step to protect itself from flooding as the sea rises. But an important point made by the Dutch experts is that the elevation of the ground level inside the sea dyke should be no more than 30 per cent of the total area.

They said that this ratio is of great importance for containing water in case of flooding and for adapting to further climate change.

The third strategic direction will be to restructure the water drainage system and utilise existing water reservoirs to store flood water.

The fourth measure will be to combine anti-flooding activities by reducing sea water infiltration with special attention to dredging activities in the Sai Gon river.

The fifth measure will come from several options on stopping the use of underground water in order to limit the problem of soil sinking.

And the sixth measure will be to increase the green coverage in the city and the green growth development. This will help keep the water table low.

If the city authorities are able to integrate all these six suggestions, no doubt HCM City will become a unique delta city with rapid and sustainable economic development.

To achieve that goal what the city should do?

The most important thing is that city authorities and people must understand the importance of taking action to respond to climate change.

Suggestions given by the Dutch experts are of great value. We should study and analyse them thoroughly and then integrate them into the city's planning scheme.

For the immediate future, I think what we should do is to control water flow and create more surfaces to absorb water easily while restraining the extraction of underground water and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. — VNS


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