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  • Tho Nguyen, ISET-VietNam

Resilience thinking in urban development in Vietnam

On August 31, 2018, a UCR-CoP event was organized in Hanoi, with the participation of about 30 participants from UDA, Can Tho CRO, 100RC, GIZ, SECO, ISET, and other CoP members. The workshop focused on the topic of integrating resilience thinking into urban development, specifically aiming to share and discuss the challenges in applying resilience thinking in urban development in general, and through the specific experiences and lessons related to green infrastructure development in Can Tho City under the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) program. It was also an opportunity for members to share and discuss the experience and results of their resilience projects, as well as their upcoming plans.

Overview of the workshop. Photo: ISET-Vietnam

Overview of the workshop. Photo: ISET-Vietnam

There were three presentations delivered at the workshop:

1. GIZ project result updates – Presentation by Dr. Tim McGrath, GIZ

Dr. McGrath provided an update on GIZ’s activities in the last period, which include: project with UDA on indicators and criteria for urban resilience in Vietnam; project with SECO to support UA on drafting of the new Urban Development and Management Law; and recent publications of GIZ on climate resilience in Vietnam.

Dr. Tim McGrath (GIZ) giving his presentation. Photo: ISET-Vietnam

Many participants were very interested in the indicator development process, and on how the results of different indicator projects can be effectively coordinated and integrated into the law making process that UDA is leading.

2. Resilience thinking and challenges in applying resilience thinking in urban development – Presentation by Dr. Vu Canh Toan, ISET-Vietnam Dr. Toan introduced the resilience planning applied by ISET, which includes establishing a local team; stakeholder engagement; identification of shocks and stresses; overview resilience assessment based on the city resilience framework (with 4 dimensions: health and wellbeing; economy and society, infrastructure and environment, leadership and strategies); in-depth analysis of focus areas and opportunity assessment; identify priority actions; and implementation, and emphasized that this is not a one-off but an iterative process.

Dr. Vu Canh Toan (ISET-Vietnam) delivering his persentation. Photo: ISET-Vietnam

He also raised thought-provoking observations on statements of challenges in the resilience planning process, and pointed out how these challenges should be analyzed more in-depth and from new angles. For example, statements of the lack of capacity as a challenge often only refer to technical capacity, and fails to recognize other capacity needs, such as capacity to engage and mobilize stakeholders. It is also important to clarify for whom should the capacity be built, as the need to build capacity and understanding of leaders are often ignored, while they are the ones who have the authority and commitment to take actions and the power to make decisions. In addition, the challenge with lack of information is often quoted. But again, Dr. Toan pointed out, however massive the information we have, it is never enough. Yet, in many cases, available information is not used even when there is a legal requirement to do so.

Dr. Toan also mentioned the need to addressing the lack of coordination, using example of ISET’s support to establish Climate Change Coordination Office for Can Tho, Da Nang and Binh Dinh provinces under the ACCCRN program. However, there are tremendous challenges in how the coordination agencies can play active roles and maintain their place in the planning process in their cities.

Finally, he also agreed that the lack of financial resources is evident, but emphasized that we can do many things with less money (quoting the examples of biological measures to address riverbank erosion in Cai Son river, Can Tho city, and biological embankment of the Thu Bon river adopted by the city of Hoi An). Moreover, more money does not always mean more resilience (maladaptation: example of new/elevated dyke in Quy Nhon – 300 billion VND, which made flooding worse for the city).

Dr. Tran Thi Lan Anh, Urban Development Agency, Ministry of Construction speaking at the workshop. Photo: ISET-Vietnam

The CoP participants discussed eagerly about the critical roles of decision-makers in the urban development process, and agreed that the process needs to be transparent to be effective. However, they also recognized the fact that there will always be uncertainty and no amount of information is enough, and taking actions based on available information now is at least useful to some extent.

3. Experience of applying resilience thinking in urban development in Can Tho: Green Infrastructure (GI) planning for urban flood resilience – Presentation by Dr. Nguyen Hieu Trung, Can Tho City Resilience Office

Dr. Trung shared the experience of Can Tho under the 100RC program. With the guiding framework that provides health and wellbeing; economy and society, infrastructure and environment, leadership and strategies as four broad areas of action, Can Tho did an assessment and came up with four discovery areas:

Dr. Nguyen Hieu Trung, Chief Resilience Officer of Can Tho City in his presentation. Photo: ISET-Vietnam

  • Health & Wellbeing: build resilience capacity for the most disadvantaged groups (most vulnerable to the identified shocks and stresses) – poverty reduction

  • Economy & Society: assess the value chain of key products of Can Tho, identify sections in the value chain that needs support in building resilience

  • Infrastructure & Environment: develop measures to strengthen green infrastructure in a pilot area in the city

  • Leadership & Strategy (related to all 3 areas above): to strengthen coordination for resilience building in the city.

Related to the green infrastructure component in particular, the working group in Ca Tho used historical maps, combined with satellite images do conduct a high level analysis, which shows that many parts of the historical canal system of Can Tho had been filled, and a significant reduction in green areas in the city compared to how it was a few decades ago.

Green infrastructure measures a needed to counter/mitigate the expected harmful effects of the above processes. Green infrastructure measures can help absorb water and reduce discharge into the sewage system. So we identified four sub-drainage units in the city as potential areas to pilot green infrastructure measures, and will select among them one area for a demonstration project, where we will apply Tactical Urbanism measures for green infrastructure development.

The Can Tho example demonstrates the importance of resilience thinking in designing, implementing and communicating about adaptive measures. There is always a certain level of uncertainty with any protective infrastructure construction. The resilience thinking mindset helps to prepare stakeholders for the case of safe failure, making that when some infrastructure does fail, it does so in a safe way. Green infrastructure measures provide no regret options that can help to reduce the adverse side effects of hard infrastructure measures, and a way to support their safe failures.

Ms. Gemma Kyle, Program Manager, Asia & Pacific, City Resilience Delivery, 100RC asking question at the workshop. Photo: ISET-Vietnam

As a common practice in all CoP event, all participants were given opportunity at the end to share with the workshop their organization/ their own plans of activities for the coming periods, and any opportunity to collaborate/join efforts with the other CoP members. The Asia Foundation, SECO, AFD, ISET, UDA, 100RC and other individual participants all took this opportunity to share about their exciting work plans with the workshop.

All CoP participants received the detailed notes of the workshop together with a copy of the presentations. Please subscribe to the URC-CoP mailing list or emailed us with the request to avoid missing out information about our upcoming events.

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