The 2005 Mumbai flooding

Can Tho City, October 2014 © Mack Male CC BY-SA 2.0

Viet Nam

Viet Nam has experienced rapid economic growth and urbanisation in recent decades. In parallel, private investors in the real estate sector have gained more power to shape urban planning and development. Increasing pressure to build in hazard-prone areas comes from migration and urbanisation, which is exacerbated by speculative real estate development driven by opportunities for short-term profits. Many areas previously zoned as subject to flood risk are being developed as residential and industrial sites, not only in large cities such as Ho Chi Minh City but also in smaller urban centres.

For example, Can Tho City, with a population of 350,000, is the demographic and economic centre of the Vietnamese Mekong Delta. Major new residential and industrial developments are planned in the Cai Rang district at the confluence of the Hau and Can Tho Rivers with high flood risk. The city district’s zoning plans reflect this risk only partially; for example, future flood risk scenarios were not included.

Real estate developers heavily influence zoning plans in the city. Approval has been sought to build almost double the number of new residences allowed for in the district’s master plan. While not all of these will be developed, agricultural land and floodplains will be converted to residential areas creating a patchwork of development, open spaces and fallows, which interrupts natural drainage flows in the city and aggravates flood risk. As a consequence, authorities may be forced into large public investments in flood mitigation infrastructure.

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