Viet Nam News
Phạm Sỹ Liêm, former Deputy Minister of Construction, speaks to the Kinh tế & Đô thị (Economic and Urban Affairs) about the need for ground level in building residential areas in Hà Nội’s outlying districts
Why do some new residential areas in Hà Nội flood when it rains heavily?
In my opinion, the root cause of the problem is the buildings’ ground floor. As we all know, in any building, designers have to carefully consider the water drainage system in the residential areas with that of the city.
However, many designers, for various reasons, pay no heed to the city’s construction code, particularly regulations on the ground level. This is the main reason why many new residential buildings outside Hà Nội flood after heavy rains.
Generally speaking, we always have a common planning scheme for each certain area/region. However in reality, during the design phase, the project owner has the final decision on the ground level of their building project – not the architects!
As a result, high-rises in the same area may have different ground levels. This has led to the problem of water logging in the buildings with the lowest ground levels. In other words, the ground level of a new building is often higher than that of an old building.
Adding to the problem is that the city’s current water drainage system is not completed while many ponds and lakes in the city have been filled up to build houses or flats. That’s why if heavy rains last for 2-3 hours, many roads in Hà Nội become “rivers”.
Why is flooding in the new urban areas more serious than in Hà Nội’s old quarter, which was constructed nearly a century ago?
I have to say that older generations calculated very carefully about the ground levels of their buildings and the drainage system for surround their homes. But nowadays in the course of urban development, I’m sorry to say we have not taken planning principles seriously.
Some unscrupulous developers have ignored technical infrastructure. What they want is more floor space to make more money. This is a key reason leading to flooding in many new residential areas whenever downpours occur, like those of Xa La, Mậu Lương, Văn Phú, Văn Khê, to the West of Hà Nội and others.
That means all future housing construction projects must follow a minimum ground floor level by the Hà Nội authorities?
I’m sorry to say, that for many years, minimum ground floor levels for a construction project has been neglected. This has led to the poor performance by the city’s drainage systems. However, more recently, Hà Nội authorities have revised the city’s minimum ground floor to make it suitable to the city’s rapid development. But in reality, the development of the city’s transport and drainage system has not been in tandem with the construction law. This leads to the problem of ground floors of tall buildings in many new urban areas being lower than the road surface.
However, in my opinion, Hà Nội should adopt a set of minimum ground floors for real estate developers to consider and apply to their projects. In the course of planning, all developers have to uphold the principle of safety first. Not to let people live in floods. In other words, there must be close co-operation between the people setting the minimum ground level with the people involved in the city’s water drainage system.
What can we do about residential areas with ground floors lower than the city’s drainage system?
For residential areas which are often isolated following downpours, offhand I can say that there is a problem at ground level. But who should be blamed for such a problem? To find out the answer we have to conduct a study. Only when we have the answer, will we know who to blame – the designers, the project owners or others. When the final results are available, we’ll then apply the “polluter pays principle”. — VNS