Thursday, November 19, 2009

Moving water around in soggy Vietnam

Helen Clark in IPS highlights a persistent challenge for Hanoi and other cities: As Vietnam’s big cities are increasingly deluged by floods, the infrastructure cannot keep up. At the end of October last year Hanoi suffered the worst floods in over 50 years. Some streets were under more than two metres of water, resulting in a death toll of 20, many as a result of electrocution from makeshift wiring; others from drowning. Photos of people fishing in the streets made headlines, but after the waters receded, people began to question their city’s underperforming infrastructure.

Last year’s floods were blamed on the heaviest rains in 24 years. However, Hanoi’s sub-tropical climate means that every year monsoonal rains hit the 1,000-year-old city. They flood main streets and labyrinthine back alleys, often to knee or waist depth. Sewerage can become a problem as garbage flows through the streets.

The rainy season is over in the north of Vietnam, but increased urbanisation and inclement weather mean the situation could worsen across the whole country. Based on a study by the International Centre for Environmental Management, an independent group that promotes ecologically sustainable development, two-thirds of southern Ho Chi Minh could be under water during storms by 2050.

…"The infrastructure of the drainage system is not following the development of the city," Truong Thu Hien, sub-head of the planning department of the Hanoi Sewerage and Drainage Company (HSDC), told IPS via email. Hanoi is located in a basin between the Red and Nhue Rivers and is naturally prone to flooding. Pipes are only able to carry some of the water from heavy rains, and the city lacks the resources for the needed improvements.

"Capital is the biggest challenge for Hanoi as far as improvement of the drainage system is concerned," continued Hien. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been funding a two-stage project to improve pumping stations and drainage, and cover many open air canals. New urban projects in the city’s west are especially prone to flooding….

This great shot of flooding in Hanoi on October 31, 2008, is by haithanh, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

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