FROM THE INSIDE
You might say that its residents are at risk due to Population growth, Poor urban and water management related planning, and Climate change. Rapid population growth and urbanization have a dramatic effect on the water system. More roads and houses means less water will soak into the ground. This results in massive run-off which is the main cause of urban flooding in HCMC.
The main effects of climate change on HCMC are higher temperatures and more heavy rainfall events. These two factors have a big impact on urban life. Higher temperatures and contact with urban flood water poses health risks to older people, pregnant women and children. Besides this, the soil near the coast in the Mekong Delta will become saltier due to SLR. It will be hard for rice farmers to earn a living. More climate migrants from the Mekong Delta will move to the slums of HCMC. This means an increase of population growth. So, the conclusion is quite clear: HCMC will feel the impact of climate change.
However, HCMC is not only challenged by population growth and climate change. It’s the urban planning and implementation that should be strengthened. HCMC is originally built on high grounds at the crossroads of the Saigon River and Dong Nai River. It was surrounded by waterways and marshland. Since 1990s the urbanization takes place rapidly. Mostly towards these low lying wetlands. Nowadays there is too much built up area and too little green and water areas to absorb the increase of water. Another important issue is ground water extraction by households and industries. This means: a sinking city with centimeters a year in some areas. Much more than sea level rise which is just some millimeters a year!
How I think the new sluice gates will help resolving the issue of mass flooding? If the sluice gate project is properly built, managed and maintained, it will help to prevent urban flooding. Improving the city’s drainage system will help too. But these engineering solutions will not make HCMC flood-free. We need to integrate water with urban planning. Not just create more retention areas with green parks, but make strong improvements at the large scale. New developments, for example, should not be planned in the most sensitive and low lying areas like Saigon South and Thu Thiem.