Down, up, down: Residents unsettled as HCMC fixes flood-prone street

By Gia Minh   December 3, 2020 | 05:49 am PT
Nguyen Huu Canh Street, infamous for frequent flooding, has been upgraded partially, but residents worry if this means their houses will get flooded instead.

The project to upgrade the 3.2 km (2 mile) long street, which connects downtown District 1 with District 2 through Binh Thanh District, was launched in October last year at a cost of VND470 billion ($20.39 million).

Scheduled for completion next April, more than half the project work has been completed, elevating the surface of the street at severely subsided sections while keeping other parts at the same height to ensure the water drainage system works well.

The 500-meter-long section of the street from an underpass in front of The Manor building to the Nguyen Huu Canh Overpass that typically suffers the heaviest subsidence has been lifted by 50 cm to 1.2 m.

Living near the overpass, Nguyen Thi Bich Phuong, 48, said the section in front of her house was badly submerged every time it rained heavily, and when the latest upgrade project was launched, she and her neighbours were very happy.

But two months ago when the surface of the street finally got lifted, her house went half a meter lower than the street level. She is now worried that her house could be flooded when it rains. Her family plans to raise the house’s floor later.

The house owned by resident Nguyen Thi Bich Phuong on Nguyen Huu Canh Street is now half a meter lower than the streets surface. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Minh

The house of Nguyen Thi Bich Phuong on Nguyen Huu Canh is now half a meter lower than the street's surface. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Minh.

Another resident living along the street, Bui Thi Sai, 68, said her family’s life has been in disarray for two months, ever since the street section got elevated.

Two years ago, her family had spent VND100 million to lift their floor by half a meter to save it from flooding, but now, the house is half a meter below street level. If the project fails to save the area from flooding, she would sell the house, Sai said.

The HCMC Management Board of Investment and Construction of Traffic Projects, the project investor, said the elevation of the street has caused more than 60 houses to go 15 cm lower than the street’s surface and nearly 70 houses lower by 30-50cm.

"Once the project is completed, it will help improve the water drainage capacity and contribute to reducing flooding for the entire neighborhood," said Phan Van Anh, a representative of the board.

Houses that are more than 30 cm lower than the street will be given enough space to build perrons (stairs and platforms) in front, he said.

A family struggles to wade through a flood water on Nguyen Huu Canh Street after a heavy rain has just stopped on the night of August 6, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa

A family struggles to wade through the flooded Nguyen Huu Canh Street after heavy rain on the night of August 6, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.

Built in 1997 and opened to traffic in 2002, the VND420 billion ($18.1 million) Nguyen Huu Canh Street had carried high hopes that it would improve traffic flow in HCMC.

But not long after its opening, the street subsided and began getting inundated every time it rains.

Earlier, the city signed a rental agreement worth VND14.2 billion ($617,760) with the Quang Trung Industry Group Joint Stock Company to install a water pump on the street to prevent flooding, but the situation did not improve much.

With no comprehensive solution identified, urban flooding has been a major headache for HCMC for almost two decades.

The city’s development plan before 1975 was designed for a population of around two million residents. Its current population has risen to 13 million, excluding migrants, but the drainage system has not been upgraded.

Rapid construction and poor investment in integrated infrastructure systems have exacerbated the flooding problem.

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