Environment
City floods due to poor planning
  • | VNS | June 13, 2011 03:25 PM

Urban experts have rejected suggestions that the worsening of Ho Chi Minh City\'s chronic flood situation is due to climate change, blaming it instead on rapid urban development and unplanned construction.

Motorists negotiate a flooded Thoai Ngoc Hau Street in HCM City\'s Tan Binh District

The country\'s most populous city is forecast to be among the 10 places in the world to be worst affected by climate change.

But the experts pointed out that the sea level had risen by just a few millimetres because of global warming but the city\'s rivers were flowing dozens of centimetres higher.

This was due to rapid urban development which caused an encroachment into drainage systems and prevented rainwater from seeping into the soil due to the extensive cementing around the city.

"The only way to effectively resolve the flooding is by good urban management," former member of the city People\'s Council, Dang Van Khoa, said.

The city has been making efforts in the last 10 years to mitigate the flooding problem, including upgrades to the drainage systems of its five major canal basins and work to prevent flooding, which has managed to stop flooding in many places.

But new areas have started flooding. As a result, the number of flood-prone areas in the city has stood at around 100, according to the Ho Chi Minh City Steering Centre of Urban Flood Control Programme.

The centre\'s deputy head Ho Long Phi said in each suburban district, there had been only a couple of flood-prone areas in 2004-05 which flooded five to eight times a year.

But the numbers have now increased, becoming uncontrollable in the districts of Go Vap, Thu Duc, Binh Chanh, 7 and 12. For instance, in 2009, 29 spots were flooded more than 250 times.

One of the reasons for the slow progress in addressing the chronic flooding is the poor maintenance of the drainage system.

Access to storm sewers is usually blocked by rubbish while the sewers themselves is too small and degraded to cope with the large amount of rainfall the city receives.

The bigger, and major, cause of this is, however, the illegal encroachments into rivers, canals, and drainage systems. Unplanned construction and poor urban management have added to the flooding woes.

For instance, the Urban Flood Control Programme\'s Steering Centre discovered that the main reason for flooding on Do Xuan Hop Street in District 9 following heavy rains last month was the illegal encroachment by a number of houses into the Ben Chua ditch system and floodgate, which drain storm water in the district. Besides, drainage points on Do Xuan Hop street were completely blocked.

Phi\'s statistics show that Districts 12, Thu Duc, and Binh Chanh, the most rapidly urbanising districts, are home to the largest number of new flood-prone areas.

The breakneck speed with which gardens and cultivable lands are converted into residential and commercial areas is the major cause of the flooding here.

The city had passed a resolution saying it is necessary to improve urban management to address the flooding problem, Khoa, a former legislator, said.

The city should allocate more funds for hiring and paying urban managers, he said.

"Good urban management will help minimise the degradation of the drainage system, saving the money spent on anti-flooding efforts."

More drastic measures were needed to check the illegal encroachment into rivers, canals, and sewers and unplanned urban development.

Severe penalties should be slapped on any activity affecting the drainage system.

The city should consider more carefully the development of new urban areas and construction work over areas that house the major spillways.

Urban planning and management should be carefully implemented to ensure the flooding problem was addressed. — VNS

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