Happy With Floods
By Quynh Thu
Saigonese should change their mindset that floods can be avoided. Instead, city folks should accept the fact that they will have to live with floods.
|Getting rid of floods? No way. So, accept them and live with them!|
The unexpected downpours last week in several provinces in the Mekong Delta left local residents with mixed feelings. For many farming households that grow vegetables and fruit trees, a heavy shower in the middle of the dry season helped quench the thirst on the fields. Likewise, among those who felt grateful to the rains were local people in U Minh mangrove forest. Just a few days prior to the showers, the rising temperature had fueled fears of forest fires. The off-season showers, however, wonderfully cooled down the temperature, lowering the risk of fires. In several locations, the incoming saline intrusion was alleviated to a certain extent due to the sudden rainfall.
However, while growers of vegetables and fruit trees were more than happy to embrace the rains, their counterparts planting rice felt that things came to a head with the appalling weather. Their fields of ripe paddies were in tatters under the heavy rains, which meant that part of the harvest would be lost. But worst of all, salt farmers in Bac Lieu Province, the hardest-hit in the incident, saw thousands of tons of salt under the sun melt in the rain.
That was the situation in the countryside. In urban areas, last week’s off-season downpours once again turn several quarters of HCMC into flooded lands. On Saturday morning, municipal authorities convened a meeting to discuss measures to combat floods in the city as the rainy season is not too far away. Weather forecasters predicted that the rainy season might arrive earlier than last year while rainfall will be higher and flooding will thus be worse. This is likely to be the case as Saigon has already under flood attacks while still in the middle of the dry season.
Nguoi lao dong newspaper reported that according to the Center for Flood Prevention Programs, 31 flooded locations were spotted last year in HCMC. Ten of them would be wiped out this year, the center’s officials affirmed, with rest to be eliminated by 2015. The streetsmart Saigonese, however, would doubt about these statements. It is true that some flooded points have been fixed. Yet new flooded locations have emerged.
Even some areas considered “immune” to floods are now under threat. For instance, the section of Tran Hung Dao Street in District 1 has been a safe heaven for car drivers and motorcyclists in the past. But the situation may be different this rainy season, experts said. Dr. Ho Long Phi, director of the HCMC Center for Water Management and Climate Change, told Nguoi lao dong that the flooding time in this city totals 30 days a year with the maximum water depth being up to 0.6m. From this viewpoint, flooded locations in Saigon may be as high as 100. This seems to be a more satisfactory explanation versus the number cited by the Center for Flood Prevention Programs.
Dr. Phi maintained that from this year on flooding is no longer serious in several inner districts such as 1, 3 and 5 because the drainage systems there are being completed. However, outer districts—2, 7, 9 and Thu Duc—will continue to see flooding. These areas with a low terrain have become “water reservoirs” under heavy rains or during high tide. In general, flooding will be worse in the coming wet season, experts said. This is inevitable as every year the entire city sinks from two to three centimeters more into the ground.
In 2006, the leader of the city’s public work sector said it would take from three to five years for the city to get rid of flooded locations. Six years has elapsed but flooding has shown no sign of improvement, if not worse. So far, HCMC has spent US$1 billion building its flood prevention works. Experts, however, estimated that at least US$6 billion is needed to build the complete workable system.
According to Dr. Phi, aside from building flood prevention works, authorities should scrutinize fighting flood by making its residents acquainted with flooding. In other words, Saigonese should change their mindset that floods can be avoided. Instead, residents in the city should accept the fact that they have to live with floods, like their compatriots in the Mekong Delta.