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ISET Working Paper: Urban Development and Flood Risk in Vietnam-experience in three cities

Authors: ISET-International, Can Tho, Da Nang and Hue team

Urbanization is accelerating in Vietnam, which had one of the highest growth rates in urban population in East Asia between 2000 and 2010. By the end of 2015, 20 new urban areas had been added for a total of 790. Vietnam’s cities are categorized by rank: there are two “special cities” of sufficient size to merit national administrative standing (Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi), and three cities administered centrally as the equivalent of provinces (Can Tho, Da Nang and Hai Phong). All other cities fall under the administrative jurisdiction of the provinces within which they lie. There are 12 Class 1 cities, 21 Class 2 cities, and larger numbers of Class 3 and 4 urban areas. The five cities that are responsible directly to the national government receive favourable administrative and fiscal privileges, so all Class 1 cities aspire to promotion to this rank, in order to receive additional resources and powers. To qualify for direct central administration, cities must meet a series of criteria related to population, size, and infrastructure, among others.

Climate change is also a growing risk for Vietnam’s cities. Most of Vietnam’s cities are located in coastal or river delta sites at low elevation. They are vulnerable to sea level rise, high tides and storm surge, typhoons, and to extreme rainfall events either in the city itself or upstream. Climate models suggest that in central Vietnam extreme rainfall events are likely to increase in intensity and frequency. Sea level will slowly increase and tides will be higher. Typhoons may become stronger. The combined effects of these climate factors will lead to greater flood risk in growing urban areas, unless preventive measures are taken.

This study compares the experience of urban planning and development in peri-urban areas affected by flooding in three Vietnamese cities: Hue, Da Nang and Can Tho. In each case, the study examined the causes of specific flood events, and the role that urban planning and development played in contributing to the floods. In addition, this synthesis reviews the planning process in each city and describes institutional conditions that contributed to the flooding outcomes. By better understanding the localized causes of specific flood events in context in Vietnamese cities, we can identify what factors to adjust in order to reduce this type of flooding and better prepare for more severe climate events in future.


Citation: Citation: Tyler, S., Tran, V.G.P., Nguyen, T.K.H., Huynh, V.T., Tran, V.D., Nghiem, P.T., Nguyen, N.H., Nguyen, T.A.N., Tran, T.N.H., Le, T.T., Tran, K.D., Nguyen, T.T., Dang, H.L. 2016. Urban Development and Flood Risk in Vietnam: Experience in Three Cities. Report prepared for the Rockefeller Foundation. Hanoi, Vietnam: Institute for Social and Environmental Transition-International.

Funded by: The Rockefeller Foundation