Ho Chi Minh city faces extensive flooding

In recent days, Ho Chi Minh City has experienced a surge in tides exceeding 1.5 meters, resulting in extensive flooding of low-lying areas that significantly disrupt the daily lives of its residents.

Common scenes along Provincial Road No.10 in Binh Tan District, Ho Chi Minh City, were individuals removing their shoes and wading through knee-high water, pushing their motorbikes in water-logged roads and, in some unfortunate instances, pedestrians were drenched in water from head to toes. This surge in tides has taken a substantial toll on the daily routines of the local populace.

Nguyen Ngoc Minh Chau, a 32-year-old office worker who traverses this road daily on her commute to work, shared her experiences: “I have no alternative but to brave this route despite being well aware of the flooding. Each time I pass through, I mentally prepare for the inundation. Nevertheless, it’s extremely uncomfortable when the motorcycle stalls and gets soaked. The journey home takes an hour, making it incredibly inconvenient.”

Similarly, other residents have voiced their concerns, with one individual stating: “Even though my motorcycle did not stall, I must exercise extreme caution when navigating this road. I steer clear of hidden manhole covers submerged in the water and drive alongside containers and trucks.”

Concurrently, individuals residing along this road find themselves unable to escape the adverse consequences of these high tides.

Residing in Tan Tao Ward, Nguyen Thanh Thai earns his livelihood as a refrigeration repair specialist, and his abode perennially overflows with refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners, and the like. The surging tides have wrought havoc upon his work, family’s daily affairs and inflicted damage on their possessions.

“The household appliances endured considerable harm. For economically disadvantaged individuals like us, when water infiltrates and damages these appliances, it becomes exceedingly challenging to replace them,” remarked Thai.

Moreover, the ceaseless vehicular movement on the street generated water splashes that inundated the sidewalk establishments. Numerous eateries were affected and potential patrons remained hesitant to visit. Le Thi Thanh Thao, the proprietor of a beef noodle shop on Provincial Road No.10, lamented: “My predicament is dire, business has slumped. Flooding has inundated my premises, necessitated a rigorous cleanup and rendered us unable to operate. Consequently, our family faces an income dearth, leaving us in a state of profound exhaustion.”

Thao’s beef noodle shop. Photo credit: Valerie Nguyen

Data from the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Construction revealed a noteworthy shift in storm surge patterns. In the years spanning from 1980 to 2007, measurements recorded at monitoring stations consistently registered below the 1.5-meter mark. 

However, commencing in 2008 and persisting to the present, climate change has instigated elevated tide levels, occasionally reaching heights of 1.8 meters. Notably, when high tides coincide with robust northeast winds, the resulting surge surpasses the customary levels. This phenomenon is attributable to wind currents propelling river waters further inland.

Per the climate forecast bulletin released in October 2023 by the National Center for Hydrometeorological Forecasting, the month is anticipated to witness a continued likelihood of storms and tropical depressions manifesting in the East Sea region, occurring approximately 1-2 times and potentially influencing mainland areas.

The advent of cold air masses is poised to escalate both in frequency and intensity, with strong winds and substantial waves that could impact sea zones, maritime activities, and the livelihoods of fishermen. Regions within the Central, Central Highlands, and Southern Territories remain susceptible to moderate and heavy rainfall. 

Furthermore, the weather conditions may give rise to heavy rainfalls, thunderstorms, tornadoes, lightning, and the potential occurrence of hail, all of which can impact the safety and well-being of the populace.

In response to queries from concerned citizens during a meeting on the afternoon of October 10, Phan Van Mai, chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee, provided the following information regarding the long-delayed 10,000 billion VND (US$ 407 million) anti-flooding project: “If the necessary funding is disbursed, the project’s investor commits to a preparation period of 1.5 months and a subsequent completion timeline of six months.”

Mai elucidated that the 10,000 billion VND anti-flooding project had previously encountered setbacks due to financial constraints on the part of the investor, resulting in a pause in its progress. As of the current juncture, over 90 percent of the project’s scope has been accomplished, necessitating an additional 1,800 billion VND to finalize the remaining 10 percent. Regrettably, the investor is presently unable to secure the requisite financial resources, and loan extensions have proven unattainable, rendering the project capital inaccessible from banking institutions.

Additionally, Mai informed that this year’s public investment budget allocated by both the Central government and Ho Chi Minh City amounted to approximately 68,000 billion VND. Within this allocation, an earmarked sum of 5,700 billion VND was slated for disbursal towards the completed segments of this project. However, these funds cannot be disbursed as the project has not yet reached completion and acceptance.

Phan Van Mai, chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee. Photo credit: Vnexpress

In a concerted effort to resolve these challenges, Ho Chi Minh City has sought to channel a portion of the 5,700 billion VND designated for the project, explored alternative options such as loans, and considered the early disbursement of funds to enable the investor to successfully conclude the project. Subsequently, upon the project’s culmination, the city will undertake an audit, formal acceptance, and disbursement by the stipulated contractual terms.

Commencing in mid-2016, the VND 10,000 billion initiative, focused on flood control, is dedicated to managing tidal inundation and addressing climate change concerns within a 570-square-kilometer area inhabited by approximately 6.5 million residents along the Saigon River and the heart of Ho Chi Minh City.

This endeavor is financed by Trung Nam BT 1547 Company Limited, employing the build-transfer (BT) model. Presently, the project stands at over 90 percent completion. However, a five-year delay has occurred due to complications surrounding payment procedures for the investors. 

Recently, the government has decided to form a task force under the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang to navigate through these obstacles and expedite the project’s fulfillment. The task force has presented three viable solutions for rectifying the issues encountered in the anti-flooding project, with the option of allocating the budget to the investors to secure loans and finalize the project being the most feasible.

The authorities advised that communities can create plans to safeguard and fortify the dyke system, deal proactively with flooding situations, and wait for this project to be finished. Landslides are caused by a combination of high tides and upstream water, heavy rain, and other factors, particularly regions that are low-lying, have poor dikes, are outside of dikes, have dunes, are island-like, or are near rivers or the shore.

Top photo credit: Valerie Nguyen. A flooded Provincial Road No.10 in Binh Tan District.

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