Hanoi: Climate Risk and Response

Source: SPOT Image Source: SPOT Image

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and has been an important commercial and cultural hub for over 1000 years. Situated in the Red River Delta, the city is now facing increasing threats from sea level rise, changing precipitation patterns, and flooding. The region is urbanizing at a rate of 3.4% annually, and ten thousand people currently live in the flood risk zone. In addition to the flood risk, the transportation and waste water infrastructure of the city are inadequate for rainfall events of 100mm/hour or greater, and are only going to be further overwhelmed by increasing high-intensity rainfall in the future.

Multiplying risks is the land use pattern that is concentrating development on agricultural land while overlooking poorer existing traditional village areas. While current water management plans address flooding and extreme events, they neglect to take sea level rise and changing precipitation patterns into account. Furthermore, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) currently overlap in their responsibilities for protecting the watershed and providing the public water supply. However, Hanoi is well prepared with evacuation and disaster management plans under prevailing conditions. The city, as well as Vietnam as a whole, is involved in international efforts to mitigate climate change, although it is not adequately prepared to adapt to the effects of climate change.

Given the severity of the risks and the opportunity to plan for climate change impacts as Hanoi grows to accommodate its expanding population, adaptation is a priority.

To prepare for adaptation, it is recommended for the city to create an integrated water management plan for the entire Hanoi Capital Region of 12.46 million people. The plan would account for sea level rise and changing precipitation to ensure resilience to infrastructure while at the same time providing for rainwater catchment, clean drinking water, and sanitary waste disposal. Ongoing research from the Ministry of Science and Technology would be instrumental in the development of relevant solutions within the water management plan.

It is also recommended that the plan be implemented by a new government ministry with oversight of MoNRE and MARD. This would allow the two to pursue separate mandates to 1) protect and preserve natural resources, and to 2) provide the public water supply, while also establishing a structure in which they could work together cohesively.

To adequately plan for the needs of the city, local knowledge and public input must be incorporated into the plan. An independent research institution would be optimally suited to assess on-the-ground information and report to the government. This would establish a mechanism for the government to receive public feedback on the effectiveness of the water management plan and provide a vehicle for the public to contribute to the development of the plan.


This article is a product of Professor Shagun Mehrotra’s Climate Change and Cities class. Analysis is based on the Framework for City Climate Risk Assessment and Climate Change and Cities:First Assessment Report of the Urban Climate Change Research Network. Views expressed are entirely those of the authors. 



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