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WB: Vietnam urbanization among fastest in region
Tu Hoang
Tuesday,  Jan 27, 2015,20:24 (GMT+7)

WB: Vietnam urbanization among fastest in region

Tu Hoang

By Tu Hoang - The Saigon Times Daily

This fi le photo shows Binh Trieu bridges connecting Binh Thanh District and the outlying district of Thu Duc in HCMC. According to the WB’s study, HCMC and Hanoi are among the largest urban areas in the region and these two cities dominate Vietnam’s urban landscape in terms of urban land and population - PHOTO: LE ANH

HANOI – Urban areas in Vietnam have expanded spatially at 2.8% per year and this is among the fastest rates in the region, according to a study released by the World Bank (WB) on January 26.

Vietnam is rapidly urbanizing, both spatially and demographically, the WB said in the study. “Vietnam’s position in the urban hierarchy jumped during the 2000-10 decade from having the seventh-largest amount of urban land in 2000 (2,200 square kilometers) to the fifth-largest amount in 2010 (2,900 square kilometers), overtaking Thailand and the Republic of Korea. This increase of 700 square kilometers was among the largest in the region; only China’s and Indonesia’s urban land increased more in absolute terms,” it said.

Some 94% of the rise in built-up land took place on arable land, but urban growth accounted for the loss of only 0.6% of the total arable land in the country.

The study showed 0.9% of Vietnam’s total land area is part of urban areas, which is a similar proportion to China but higher than Indonesia and the Philippines.

Vietnam has the sixth-largest urban population in East Asia, with 23 million people. In 2000-2010, its urban population grew 7.5 million people and this annual urban population rise of 4.1% was one of the highest rates in the region, slower than only Laos and Cambodia, which are much smaller.

Despite fast urbanization, Vietnam’s urban areas were denser than in the region as a whole, though not as dense as Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, or the Philippines. Its overall average urban density went up from 6,800 people per square kilometer in 2000 to 7,700 people per square kilometer in 2010.

The study found that although Vietnam does not have any megacities of 10 million or more citizens, its HCMC (7.8 million people) and Hanoi (5.6 million people) are among the region’s largest. These two urban areas dominate the country’s urban landscape as measured by both urban land and population.

The most notable thing about urban expansion in Vietnam is the rapid growth of Hanoi and HCMC. Their expansion rates of 3.8% and 4.0% per year respectively are much faster than those of urban areas in other East Asian countries, except China.

If the two cities continue to grow at the current rate, by 2020 they will both be twice as large as they were in 2000. Of the urban areas with populations greater than 500,000 in the country, only Danang’s growth rate of 3.5% comes close.

Spatially, both Hanoi (850 square kilometers in 2010) and HCMC (810 square kilometers in 2010) expanded almost equally between 2000 and 2010 in absolute terms - just less than 270 square kilometers. This expansion was greater than in any other urban area in the region outside China, including much larger urban areas such as Jakarta, Manila, Seoul, and Tokyo.

HCMC and Hanoi account for more than half of the urban land in the country, and the gap between them and other urban areas is widening, with 75% of the new urban spatial growth in the country recorded in these two urban areas.

Even though the administrative area of HCMC is very large and remains half unbuilt, expansion of this city is already pushing into adjacent provinces.

The study revealed that the pattern of development in Hanoi is fairly different from that in HCMC. Hanoi is situated in the Red River Delta, which is characterized by hundreds of dispersed pockets of settlement, including small towns, in contrast to the mostly unified cluster of HCMC.

New growth around Hanoi has been similarly dispersed, although since 2000 the dispersed settlements appear to be connecting into more continuous corridors of development along highways, such as the spur heading northeast from the center of Hanoi through Bac Ninh, and another heading east toward Hai Duong.

As defined in the study, 37% of the built-up land and only 31% of the increase in built-up land since 2000 falls within Hanoi. The places with the largest increases in urban population density were the already dense districts in the center of the capital city, such as Dong Da, Hai Ba Trung, and Hoan Kiem, where in 2010 population density exceeded 40,000 people per square kilometer. So although Hanoi may be expanding rapidly, the very dense city center continues to get denser.

As in HCMC, the increase in density in the center of the city is possibly attributable to the industrial expansion, which creates jobs and attracts people to the city.

Vietnam also has one urban area in the one million to five million range (Haiphong), six between 500,000 and one million, and 21 between 100,000 and 500,000 people, according to the study.

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