He spoke at a recent workshop of a project to develop a city climate resilience index for Vietnam.
The project, carried out by the Ministry of Construction’s Urban Development Department in co-operation with ISET and the Asia Foundation, aims at providing localities with an overview of their resilience against natural disasters and climate change, through which they can come up with appropriate solutions to tackle the problems.
|Large areas of agriculture land in Krong No district of Dak Nong province in Central Highlands region lack water due to droughts
From surveys and research at five pilot cities in the first phase of the project, namely Lao Cai, Cam Pha, Hoi An, Gia Nghia and Ca Mau, experts find that critical ecosystems have been destroyed or degraded significantly in recent years.
Particularly, lake and river systems and lowland areas of cities are highly prone to encroachment under the high pressure of urbanisation, which exacerbates flooding.
“When land price increases, cities tend to fill in canals, rivers or lakes to build new urban areas. This considerably reduces the natural water drainage ability,” Phong said, adding that cities do not have effective mechanisms to protect and maintain the ecosystems providing environmental services to safeguard them.
Another important factor that will make cities more climate change resilient is protecting the health and well-being of residents in urban communities, the project finds.
Surveys show that poor communities in the five pilot cities, which are highly vulnerable to natural disasters like storms and floods, have the most difficulty accessing public services like water and electricity.
From an economic perspective, it is necessary to diversify industries to deal with the impact of natural disasters and climate change so that communities have various options to choose, rather than relying on only one type of job for their livelihoods, according to Phong.
“For example, some localities in the Mekong Delta region have for too long depended on growing rice, while others rely only on aquaculture. When there were environmental changes like drought or salt water intrusion, people found it very hard to respond and adapt,” he said.
Dr Do Hau from the Vietnam Urban Planning and Development Association, which is also involved in the project, said response to climate change impact requires integrated planning by multiple sectors of the city leadership.
Up until now, planning has been conducted by each sector separately while co-operation and co-ordination among sectors are very limited. As a result, planning is usually inconsistent and even conflicting.
He also pointed out some notable difficulties that cities are facing in increasing their climate change resilience, especially lack of qualified human resources and sufficient funding.
According to the project, the city climate resilience shows the ability of cities, including individuals, communities, organisations and urban systems to survive, cope with, adapt to and develop amidst regular pressure and sudden environmental shocks.
A city’s resilience index measures four sectors, which are health and welfare, society and economy, infrastructure and environment, and leadership and strategy.
Among five pilot cities, Ca Mau in the Mekong Delta and Gia Nghia in the Central Highlands province of Dak Nong were found to have the lowest performance. Hoi An City in central Quang Nam province tops the list with an overall score of a little over 7.5 out of 10.
The two-year project, which was launched last year, will be expanded to assess 25 more cities.