Cities around the globe are threatened by climate-related hazards such as cyclones, floods, droughts, sea level rise, heatwaves and landslides. Around 130 port cities with over one million inhabitants are expected to be affected by coastal flooding. As per the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) by IPCC, cities are expected to experience more frequent occurrences of extreme climate events, such as heatwaves, with more hot days and warm nights. Moreover, the unplanned and poorly managed, urbanization has the potential to exacerbate the implications resulting from these projections putting urban communities and urban systems at great risk. If necessary actions are not taken to build urban climate resilience now, cities worldwide could incur losses amounting to around USD 314 billion every year by 2030.
ADPC is taking actions to build resilience of urban communities and urban systems to climate extremes through the project “Urban Resilience to Climate Extremes (URCE) in Southeast Asia” under the aegis of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad). This regional program is currently being implemented in Viet Nam in two cities, Nam Dinh (Nam Dinh province) and My Tho (Tien Giang province).
Urban Climate Risks in Viet Nam
Viet Nam is a Southeast Asian nation with an extensive coastline and a generally warm climate. Majority of cities and urban centers in Viet Nam are located along the coast or rivers. They are facing many challenges and highly vulnerable, due to climate induced natural hazards (typhoons, storms surge, floods, salinity intrusion and sea level rise) and anthropogenic factors such as rapid unplanned urbanization & aging civic infrastructure. According to the World Bank, nearly 37.34% of the population resides in urban areas as of Year 2020. It is expected that urbanization will continue to expand in Viet Nam and is estimated by year 2050, the percentage of urban population will reach 57%.
Typhoons and floods are the most frequent and most devastating disaster events. These events often cause a heavy loss of life and damage to infrastructure and economic activity because of the concentration of people living along the coastline and in low-lying deltas, particularly those of the Mekong and Red rivers. It is estimated that an estimated 80%–90% of the total population of the country is affected by typhoons. Viet Nam experiences an average of 6–8 typhoons or tropical storms of varying intensities each year, with the northern and central coastal regions being hardest hit in the early months of the storm season (May–December).
This high susceptibility to climate-induced hazards has the potential to bring urban systems to a halt and reverse years of sustainable development gains. Furthermore, with the spread of economic activity and development, urban populations have settled to a greater extent in marginally suitable areas such as floodplains, coastal swamps, drainage channels, or other natural buffers. Hence, they are exposed to risks from multiple climate induced hazards due to the poor nature of the settlement areas.
According to the Ministry of Construction, Viet Nam, there are currently about 300 coastal cities that would be greatly affected by climate extreme events in the form of flooding & high tides and about 140-150 cities in mountainous areas that would experience landslides, flash floods and droughts.
Viet Nam has been implementing several initiatives to mitigate climate risks. Investments are made in flood mitigation using flood defense infrastructures, dikes and embankments in the country. A storm- and flood-resistant housing project has been implemented in Da Nang that helps vulnerable households to increase their climate resilience.
However, haphazard expansion of built environments lacking risk-informed spatial planning could negate the effectiveness of such efforts.
Challenges faced by Nam Dinh City and My Tho City due to Climate Risks
ADPC under the URCE Program is focusing on strengthening urban climate resilience in two cities in Viet Nam. They are:
- Nam Dinh City (Nam Dinh Province) which is located in the Red River delta in northern Viet Nam and
- My Tho City (Tien Giang province) which is in Mekong River Delta in southern Viet Nam.
Both cities are Grade I urban areas in Viet Nam and are highly prone mainly to floods and typhoons.
Nam Dinh City’s urban population was 253,343 people in 2019, and the population density was 5,457.6 people/km2. Industry dominates the economic structure of Nam Dinh city. The proportion of production from the agro-forestry-fishery industry has gradually decreased over the years, while trade and service industries have experienced good growth. Further, the city also acts as an education hub holding the largest number of universities, colleges and professional secondary schools in the country.
The city faces great challenges when carrying out development activities due to climate risks. Rising temperatures, and prolonged hot weather make drought events critical. Flooding in the rainy season puts great pressure on the agriculture and fishery industries, affecting food security and also has a negative impact on city infrastructure and the daily lives of local people.
It is also forecasted that sea level rise and saltwater intrusion will have significant impacts on land, water resources, technical infrastructure, etc. in the city.
*City specific statistical information presented herein are obtained from the City Master Plan of Nam Dinh until 2040 with vision to 2050, Published in 2020 by Ministry of Construction, Viet Nam.
My Tho city is the center of the Northeast sub-region of the Mekong Delta. In 2019, the total population in the city was 270,700 people, and the population density was 3,319 people/km² according to Tien Giang province Department of Home Affairs. The city’s economic structure leans towards industry – handicrafts, trade – services, agriculture, and fisheries. My Tho city is also the center of education and training of Tien Giang province and the south provinces of the Tien River. Currently, the city has 1 university, 3 colleges and many professional training centers.
Flooding is the main climate induced hazard experienced by My Tho city. Localized upstream heavy precipitation and rising river tides increase the severity of floods in the city. Saltwater intrusion is also another hazard affecting the city. In addition, the city is subject to other climate change sensitivities including extreme weather events, especially tropical cyclones.
Urbanization is taking place at a rapid pace, especially in large cities of Vietnam. The two grade I urban cities, Nam Dinh and My Tho are forecasted to be greatly affected by climate-induced hazards and consequently increasing exposure to climate change risks and multidimensional vulnerability. Hence, to ensure the sustainable development of these two cities, it is necessary to focus on assessing and finding solutions to reduce disaster risks and adapt to climate change in the future.
*City specific statistical information presented herein are obtained from the City Master Plan of My Tho until 2030 with vision to 2050, Published in Year 2014 by Ministry of Construction, Viet Nam.
ADPC initiative to strengthen urban climate resilience
ADPC identiﬁes that building resilience to urban climate extremes is a matter of multiple intersections of understanding future and current risks, creating capacities on preparedness, emergency management, sectoral developments as well as bringing risk governance and learning mechanisms for sustainable risk management for a distance future. Therefore, ADPC embarks on a multidisciplinary approach with the involvement of stakeholders from diﬀerent sectors.
The URCE Program will attempt to build resilience to climate extremes in the two cities by achieving the following Five Outcomes:
- Improved multi-Hazard early warning systems and risk knowledge on climate extremes (Typhoons, Floods, Storm surges etc.) to be better informed on the impending disasters,
- Strengthened urban community readiness and local preparedness to act eﬃciently during climate extreme disasters and emergencies
- Improved urban sectoral preparedness and emergency response to have a better capacity in Health, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Nutrition in Emergencies (NiE), Critical Infrastructure and assist vulnerable population with inclusive response;
- Strengthened urban risk governance systems for dealing with emerging climate extremes and emergencies;
- Improved knowledge and awareness on building urban climate resilience for extremes through Regional and National events/forums.
Building resilience to the climate extremes contributes to sustainable urbanization and make cities better places to live & work.