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Colby College

Publication Date

Spring 2019

Program Name

Vietnam: Culture, Social Change, and Development


Flooding has become the new normal in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). During the rainy season, many areas of the city experience severe inundation that seriously impacts infrastructure, traffic, and economic transactions. As the effects of climate change unpredictably and rapidly manifest in Southern Vietnam, the frequency and impact of urban floods are projected to increase. In addition, within the last few decades, HCMC has rapidly developed and urbanized, transforming itself into the economic center of Southern Vietnam. However, previous studies and international experts have determined that rapid, poor development may be exacerbating urban flood issues.

In recent years, city authorities and land planners have recognized the threat of urban flooding and climate change, calling for sustainable development and investing in flood adaptation infrastructure. Despite these efforts, many local people and experts agree that measures have been largely ineffective. Furthermore, based on the Master Plan extending into 2025, the city does not appear to be slowing development any time soon. With plans to further develop into the low-lying floodplains south of Saigon, including District 7, HCMC is likely to create new flood-prone areas while increasingly vulnerability to climate change and poor development.

To better understand the issue of urban flooding and adaptation in HCMC, this paper selects District 7 as a site of study. Through a case-study approach, this research intends to explore the issue of urban flooding in District 7 within the context of climate change and rapid urbanization to determine whether the city could effectively implement a more coordinated form of flood adaptation considerate of climate change, socio-economic inequities, and community-based adaptation – otherwise known as “adaptive urban governance”. Based on interviews with 10 individuals, and observational data, and a “desk review”, relevant analysis includes an assessment of current formal efforts (i.e. programs and legislation), stakeholder analysis, and an assessment of the socio-economic and spatial inequities resulting from uneven development in District 7. This case-study of District 7 determined that, in principle, HCMC’s potential for adaptive urban governance toward urban flooding appears strong; however, in reality, current efforts are weak and insufficient, thereby minimizing the potential for adaptive urban governance.


Asian Studies | Climate | Development Studies | Emergency and Disaster Management | Environmental Policy | Environmental Studies | Hydrology | Social and Cultural Anthropology | South and Southeast Asian Languages and Societies | Sustainability | Urban, Community and Regional Planning | Urban Studies and Planning


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