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  • Toan Vu, ISET-Vietnam

Green Infrastructure as a Focus Area of the Can Tho City Resilience Strategy

Over the last few months, the ISET team has worked closely with Can Tho city and the Can Tho 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) team on the idea of promoting green infrastructure in the city. The need for developing green infrastructure came out as a result of the first phase of the 100RC project. Indeed, findings of the Preliminary Resilience Assessment indicate that Can Tho has been facing multiple climate and non-climate related shocks and stresses such as urban flooding, heat waves, water pollution, and lack of green and public spaces. Of these, flooding was considered as one of the most serious. The city is also struggling with the poor enforcement of urban development regulations leading to excessive encroachment of and building on natural water storage areas such as lakes, rivers and canals. This is mainly due to a lack of integrated, demand-oriented and risk-sensitive urban planning practices which are instead fragmented, sector and fix-target oriented. For instance, flood management interventions often rely on the conventional “grey infrastructure“, for example, underground drainage systems that are designed mainly on historical data, fixed and inflexible standards. These approaches have been strongly criticized due to its limitations in building resilience and dealing with conditions of uncertainty that are inherent to future changes including climate change.

In this context, green infrastructure emerges as an innovative approach that is proven to be more cost-effective than outmoded models of grey infrastructure and provides multiple benefits for people and the environment. This approach has been applied widely in the US and Europe with the most common application in managing the water cycle. Green infrastructure solutions often combine ecosystems and engineering to provide multiple, instead of single, services to urban citizens. For instance, models of green infrastructure such as green roofs, blue roofs and multifunctional areas including storage, permeable pavement, low-lying parks as flood retention and infiltration ponds, and constructed wetlands can provide multiple benefits, namely reducing water and air pollution, minimizing the impacts of heatwaves, preventing development in wetlands, serving irrigation needs, refilling groundwater, and importantly for Can Tho’s resilience plan, reducing surface runoff and pressure on underground drainage systems and thus flooding risks.

Above: The model of the Van Benthem Water Square, Rotterdam was shared by Deltares at the green infrastructure workshop in October. Photo:

Recognizing the multiple challenges that Can Tho is facing, the limitations of the existing planning and flood management practices and the advantage and innovative nature of green infrastructure, the Can Tho 100RC team has identified green infrastructure as one of the four focus areas for the development of the city resilience strategy. However, despite its wide application in western countries, green infrastructure is still a new concept in Vietnam in general and in Can Tho in particular. Thus, ISET has worked closely with the city’s 100RC team to organize and facilitate a series of green infrastructure related events. These included a roundtable discussion as part of Vietnam’s Community of Practice on Urban Climate Resilience (COP-UCR) in September, a green infrastructure workshop funded by the Project Management Unit-Official Development Assistance (PMU-ODA) in October and a number of smaller group discussions with relevant stakeholders. During these events, local stakeholders were introduced to the concepts related to green infrastructure, international examples and experiences in applying green infrastructure. Participants also discussed ideas, opportunities and challenges for the application of green infrastructure in Can Tho.

Above: The Roundtable discussion on green infrastructure in September.

Insights from these events have been used to develop a detailed plan for further research that will be conducted during phase II of the 100RC effort. This research aims to address key strategic questions that the city of Can Tho would need to have answered to improve the city’s resilience. Findings from this research will serve as an important foundation for the formulation of the City Resilience Strategy. As the Strategy Partner of 100RC in Vietnam, the ISET team will continue to provide technical support to Can Tho in the coming months to implement activities related to green infrastructure as well as other focus areas.

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