Ho Chi Minh City could be a swamp 50 years from now

By Huu Nguyen   August 11, 2018 | 05:53 am PT
Ho Chi Minh City could be a swamp 50 years from now
Many parts of Ho Chi Minh City submerge under water after a heavy rain in May, 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
The city surface has been subsiding seven centimeters each year and the process is speeding up.

It is not a mere problem anymore, but an existential threat that is facing the nation’s biggest city, according to the Netherlands Embassy in Hanoi.

It is possible that a major part of the city can lie below sea level in 50 years, turning into a swamp, said Laurent Umans, the embassy's First Secretary, Water and Climate Change.

The dire warning came at a meeting held on Thursday to call for investment for ongoing anti-floding projects in the city.

Ho Chi Minh City now needs VND73.5 trillion ($3.15 billion) to implement the rest of its 2016-2020 drainage system master plan, Nguyen Hoang Anh Dung, deputy director of the city’s Steering Center for the Urban Flood Control Program, said at the meeting.

Under this plan, the inner-city area needs 6,000 km (over 3,700 miles) of sewers of different types by 2020. So far, around 4,176 km of these sewers have been built.

The city has only finished two of 12 planned wastewater treatment plants, 64 km out of 149 km of dykes along the Saigon River, and one-tenth of a major tidal control sluice.

It is planned that of the investment the city now needs, VND16.38 trillion will come from the city’s budget, VND588 billion from the central government budget, VND20.28 trillion ($868 million) from private sources and VND36.15 trillion ($1.55 billion) from official development assistance (ODA).

The investment is needed for 16 anti-flooding projects - 7 wastewater treatment plants, 6 canal dredging projects, and three dyke and tidal control projects.

Dung said the city’s development plan before 1975 was designed for a population of only 2 million.

The city now is home to around 10 million, excluding migrants, but the water drainage system is yet to be upgraded, he said.

Apart from heavy rain, the city usually gets flooded due to high tides from the Saigon-Dong Nai-Vam Co Dong river system that flows through it. Sixty-three percent of the city is at a height of below 1.5 meters compared with sea level, which is lower than the maximum tide.

“Climate change has made the flooding situation worse in the city because it is getting heavier rainfall, more than the drainage system can handle,” he said.

Tran Vinh Tuyen, the city’s Deputy Chairman, said urban development errors like projects in the southern part of the city was also a reason behind the flooding and subsidence.

“The city now needs to clarify and specify what actually causes flooding in each part and then find specific solutions to deal with the situation in each area,” Tuyen said.

For the immediate future,  the city will revise its water drainage master plan and build a flooding map to find useful solutions, he added.

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