Poor drainage, rapid urbanization blamed as flooding rises to highest parts of Saigon

By Huu Nguyen – Duy Tran   June 1, 2017 | 11:50 am GMT+7
Poor drainage, rapid urbanization blamed as flooding rises to highest parts of Saigon
Motorbikes struggle through a flooded road in Thu Duc District in Ho Chi Minh City during a downpour in May. Photo by VnExpress/A.X

Mororbikes and riders are being washed away in parts of the city that used to be safe from flooding.

While flooding after the rain is no long a strange site in Ho Chi Minh City, concerns are growing now that waters are regularly rising to some of the highest parts of the city.

Many roads in Districts 9 and Thu Duc in the city’s northeast have been hit by terrible flooding after downpours of just one or two hours this monsoon season, raising questions over the construction of steep roads and poor drainage in the area.

Two weeks ago, heavy flooding after a downpour swept away motorbikes and their riders in Thu Duc District, and several had to rescued by passersby.

“The road is very steep and that’s why the water flows so rapidly. It used to flood in the past but not like this,” said Minh, 65, who lives on Vo Van Ngan Street, a major road in the district.

The lower end of To Ngoc Van Street, which crosses a railway line, was nearly one meter under water that day. Parts of the rail track had to be cordoned off and hundreds of motorcylists were stranded as they dared not drive through the deep water.

In District 9, part of the Hanoi Highway under the Rach Chiec Bridge floods every time it rains because it is lower-lying than other nearby roads.

The drainage system in the districts is also underdeveloped.

Nearly half of the streets in Thu Duc District and 140 in District 9 do not have storm water drains while the rest of the system uses small pipes that are easily overwhelmed by heavy rain, officials said.

Ngo Viet Nam Son, a respected architect, said that rapid urbanization in the area has also played a factor in the problem.

The monsoon season in southern Vietnam usually starts in May but arrived early this year with several heavy downpours in February.

Data from the Southern Center for Hydro-Mmeteorological Forecasting showed that rainfall in the city in May was 30 percent heavier than a year ago. The downpour last Monday flooded 22 streets, and some were still submerged two hours after the rain stopped, it said.

Tran Quang Lam, deputy director of the city’s transport department, said the city aims to clear 12 of its 40 flood-prone spots this year, including those in Thu Duc and District 7.

The city’s $440 million anti-flood project is scheduled for completion in April next year, and should save around 6.5 million people, or more than half of the city’s population, from constant flooding. But there have been concerns over delays as site clearance is not moving along as quickly as expected.