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Mitigation alone won’t work
The Saigon Times Daily
Monday,  Sep 25, 2017,21:13 (GMT+7)

Mitigation alone won’t work

The Saigon Times Daily

Many people in HCMC may have had a huge sigh of relief when a pumping station installed by a private firm named Quang Trung Industry Joint Stock Company worked well during trial operation last week, sucking up all floodwater on Nguyen Huu Canh Street in Binh Thanh District within just 15 minutes. For years, flooding at this venue has prompted public outcries, as the road section is often submerged knee- or waist-deep upon downpour or by flood tide, and flooding there normally lasts long hours.

The HCMC government, after witnessing the efficient trial operation, intends to sign a contract with the private company, tentatively agreeing to pay VND12 billion a year to the contractor if the pumping station proves efficient upon downpours with rainfalls of 70 to 100mm. Despite the high cost, the imminent contract is seen necessary as flooding is one of the biggest headaches for HCMC that has persisted for many years.

Still, there are concerns if pumping stations are the right solution, as there are dozens of sites in the city prone to severe flooding. The huge pumping station at Nguyen Huu Canh Street proves feasible as it is able to quickly pump floodwater into the Saigon River nearby. However, it is unknown how a pumping station will work in areas far away from canals or rivers, and whether the city government can afford to install scores of such large-scale pumping stations citywide.

Apart from the aforesaid pumping station, the municipal government is deploying many other costly projects to mitigate flooding in the city, including a huge project costing some VND10 trillion by Trung Nam Group to build sluice gates, embankments and other flood control structures along rivers and canals across the city.

International experts have repeatedly raised stern warnings about severe flooding due to climate change and global warming, with HCMC named among the ten hardest-hit cities worldwide. Some scientific studies have also estimated that when it gets one degree Celsius warmer, the air moisture and thus the rainfall will increase by some 7%. Experts have therefore called for a stronger swing towards adaptation instead of mitigation alone.

To adapt to climate change, it is high time for the city to rethink its urban development. There should be drastic measures to check the population growth, as the current tempo of urbanization will exert increasingly greater pressure on the limited infrastructure. There should be drastic measures to check the construction density, as the water needs to have spacious passages to flow rather than to be contained. And there should be effective programs to protect all the rivers and canals and ditches, as encroachment on such waterways will only aggravate urban flooding.

Pumping stations are needed, sluice gates are needed, levees and embankments or even protective walls are needed, but such mitigation measures should only serve as supportive solutions to adaptation measures only. Mitigation measures alone will not work since more extreme weather phenomena are to get more frequent as induced by climate change.

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