Saigon looking to get smart with renewed environment drive

By Manh Tung   May 11, 2017 | 07:51 pm GMT+7

High tides are making waves as Vietnam's largest city looks over the abyss.

Authorities in Ho Chi Minh City have backed up a commitment to focus on environmental issues as part of their efforts to transform the southern metropolis into a smart city.

Vietnam's largest city is currently among the 10 cities globally most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Nguyen Thien Nhan, Ho Chi Minh City's newly-installed top leader, reiterated the point at the start of a three-day regional seminar being held by the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) that started on Thursday. Nearly a hundred representatives from the Asia-Pacific region have gathered at the seminar to discuss the threats of climate change.

Speaking at the seminar, Nhan said the city is facing "the challenge of this era", citing a report compiled by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that said the city is at serious risk from the impacts of climate change, rising temperatures, increased rainfall and high tides.

"Urban inundation, deep seawater intrusion and rising sea levels have all been affecting production, clean water supplies, infrastructure and people's lives," Nhan said.

He said municipal authorities were well aware of the situation and were pushing for new policies to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Nhan said that population and traffic density, domestic waste and clean water needs for every square kilometer in Ho Chi Minh City were way above the national average.

HCMC plans to cooperate with Osaka (Japan) on a program to develop low carbon cities, and with Rotterdam (Netherlands) in the Climate Adaptation Strategy program to develop the city and harbor.

"We are determined to turn HCMC into a smart metropolis, so we will monitor environmental indicators to provide a healthy living environment for the people," Nhan said.

He said 80 percent of natural disasters are caused by climate change, and more than 88 percent of the people have been affected by natural disasters in Asia-Pacific over the past 45 years, with 2 million people killed. Economic losses from climate change amounted to $1 trillion in that time. 

Addressing the seminar, Saber Chowdhury, president of the IPU, called climate change a global problem that affects the world's sustainable development goals.

Chowdhury called for all countries to come up with dynamic strategies to tackle climate change.

Last year, El Nino hit Vietnam's agriculture, forestry and seafood industries, limiting the sector's annual growth to 1.36 percent, the slowest rate since 2011, based on government statistics. The country's economic growth, one of the fastest in the region, also slowed to 6.21 percent last year, the slowest since 2014.

It is estimated that the country will need $30 billion to pay for climate change adaptation and mitigation before 2020.