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Daily life disrupted as HCMC anti-flooding projects remain sluggish

By Gia Minh   November 6, 2021 | 11:59 pm PT
Daily life disrupted as HCMC anti-flooding projects remain sluggish
A man tries to keep his motorbike steady after he falls off on Tran Xuan Soan Street in HCMC's District 7, November 6, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Tardy implementation of anti-flooding projects has meant that roads and houses in HCMC continue to get submerged during high tide and heavy downpours. Last weekend was no exception.

Seasonal tides peaked at more than 1.7 meters in Vietnam’s southern metropolis Saturday, resulting in traffic chaos in many parts of districts 1, 4, 7 and Thu Duc City, with cars being stalled and motorbike drivers falling off.

A similar scenario played out Friday, disrupting the daily activities of city dwellers.

At the end of October, rains and high tides had also flooded many roads in districts 1, 12, Binh Thanh, as well as Thu Duc City.

According to the Ho Chi Minh City Infrastructure Management Center (HIMC), in order to deal with urban flooding in Nguyen Van Huong and Quoc Huong streets in Thu Duc’s Thao Dien Ward, home to a large expat community, the city had already launched three anti-flooding projects, but none has been completed yet.

Of these, the most significant one is the dike project to prevent flooding on the left bank of the Saigon River. Built in 2017 and set for completion in 2020, the VND1 trillion ($44 million) project has been delayed by obstacles in site clearance.

Vu Van Diep, director of the HIMC, said by the end of last year, HCMC had fixed 22 out of 40 flooded areas on main streets and saved 180 alleys and small roads from getting flooded during heavy rains.

For flooding caused by high tides, the city has four routes that remain exposed, including Nguyen Van Huong, National Highway 50 (with the most flooded section running through Binh Chanh District), and Le Van Luong and Tran Xuan Soan streets in District 7.

"The situation on these routes will only be fixed when the first phase of a tidal flooding project that takes into account climate change factors is completed."

The VND10 trillion ($431 million) project is now the biggest anti-flooding project in the city, estimating an estimated 6.5 million residents, or half the city’s population.

Originally set to be completed in April 2018, the project will build six floodgates and dikes in districts 1, 4, 7, 8, Binh Chanh, and Nha Be along the Saigon River.

Work on the project began in 2016, but was delayed by the drying up of credit, disagreements between the consultants and contractor over materials and land acquisition bottlenecks.

One of the six floodgates of the VND10-trillion anti-flooding project in District 1, HCMC, April 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

One of the six floodgates of the VND10-trillion anti-flooding project in District 1, HCMC, April 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

As of April this year, it was deemed 96 percent complete, but then work had been suspended since over contract disputes. The investor, the city-based Trung Nam Group, said it was still waiting for the city administration to sort the problem out with related parties.

According to the HCMC Construction Department, besides climate change, population growth and rapid urbanization, the slow implementation of anti-flooding projects has been a factor in the period chaos unleashed in the city.

Overall, all anti-flooding projects are 46 percent complete, as per the master plan on drainage in HCMC. The existing drainage system is outdated and yet to receive proper investment for needed upgrades.

For the plan to reduce urban flooding in the 2021-2025 period, the department estimated investment at more than VND101.000 trillion ($4.4 billion), including VND31.4 trillion from the state budget and the rest from the central government, official development assistance loans, and capital raised from public-private partnership funding model.

In May, the city announced that it will launch 11 anti-flooding projects in the second and third quarters of this year.

The 11 projects, costing over VND1 trillion ($43.5 million) in total, will be funded with the city budget and invested in by the HCMC Management Board of Investment and Construction of Traffic Projects, the municipal construction department said in a plan submitted to the People Committee.

Of the 11 projects, the largest is the construction of a drainage system on Nguyen Duy Trinh Street in Thu Duc City with an investment of VND300 billion. It will be carried out on a 7-km section stretching from 990 Street to Vo Khe Bridge.

It is followed by a VND100-billion project to build a 1.3-km-long sewer on Ly Chieu Hoang Street in District 6.

Both projects are expected to be completed next year, helping increase the drainage capacity in areas vulnerable to flooding during the rainy season.

Yet another project will upgrade more than 600 meters of the Dam Sen Canal in District 11, replacing an old degraded drainage system at a cost of VND84 billion.

For almost two decades, urban flooding has been a major headache for HCMC, and no comprehensive solution has been implemented.

The city’s development plan before 1975 was designed for around 2 million residents but that population has risen to 13 million, excluding migrants, and yet the drainage system is yet to get the upgrade it desperately needs.

Experts have noted that the drainage plans being used now are also outdated. They have warned several times that without a sea change in flood-fighting efforts, the current situation will continue and even worsen.

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