My city is sinking

The following post is by 350 Vietnam organizer and coordinator Hong Hoang.

OK, if you think only people in coastal areas will be affected by sea level rise, think twice about it. Here in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam’s biggest city, also the country’s largest economy, people have been struggling with increasingly high tides from Saigon River, resulted by the rising sea level, which is one of the climate change impacts affecting the country.

In November 2011, HCMC witnessed the record tide level of 1m60 – the highest tide level in the past 51 years. The unusual high tides damaged the protective dykes, and caused floods in the low-land areas of the city’s many districts: Districts 12, 2, 6, 8, Binh Thanh, Thu Duc… The streets and alleys became “rivers”, creating serious chaoses to the daily lives of thousands of families and also to the traffic. In many residential areas the water level went up to 1 meter inside the houses, causing considerable damages to the families and small businesses there.

And it was not just a one-off event. New tide levels in HCMC have been recorded every year for the past 4 years: 1m55 in 2008, 1m57 in 2009, 1m58 in 2010, and 1m60 in 2011, while the record of 1m54 had been the highest for the previous 49 years. Even in mid-March this year, the tide also got to an unusual high level of 1m49, which according to some local meteorologists was extremely rare for the dry season in the last 20 years. Life has become more and more unbearable in many areas in the city, where floods caused by high tides can attack for up to 10 days in a month. The worst thing about the tide-caused floods is that in a lot of cases people cannot put sandbags to prevent the water from coming into their house, because the water comes from inside the house, through the sewage systems. And there comes the hygiene issue.

So it is high time to highlight the fact that the city is sinking.

For Connect the Dots, the 350 Vietnam Coordinating Team has come up with a plan that aims to highlight the climate change impacts in the country, support communities directly affected by climate change, and send a message of the Vietnamese people to the global communities.

For the coming Climate Impacts Day 05 May, the 350 Vietnam Coordinating Team in HCMC will take actions to highlight this very specific issue of the city. The team has worked with the People’s Committees of Thanh Xuan and Thanh Loc Wards of District 12, which are considered the city’s “Hot Spots” for high tide floods, and discussed the needs for support of the local communities. Starting from 3 May until the work is done, hundreds of volunteers of Connect the Dots HCMC campaign will help to grow 1,000 trees along the dykes, and clear up water hyacinth on the river branches that go around the wards, which will help to reduce the impacts of the rising tides on the area. Later in the year, the volunteers will also help the wards to rebuild and reinforce the protective dykes that were damaged in the recent floods.

Also on 05 May, a “Climate Impact” event will be held in an open space in Thanh Loc Ward, where local residents and journalists will be invited to a creative climate change awareness raising activity that will use visual and installation arts to convey the campaign’s message.

Hundreds of climate change photos collected from the national photo contest named “Let’s speak up for our survival” that 350 Vietnam launched in early April will be used to make a giant dot to be connected with hundreds of dots from every corner of the world.

Let’s speak up for our survival

Follow us on www.facebook.com/vietnam350 and we’ll keep you further updated on the Connect the Dots campaign in Vietnam.

All in all, I do not want my son to have to swim to school in the near future. When I left Hanoi and moved the whole family down to Ho Chi Minh City just less than 3 years ago, I immediately fell in love with Thao Dien Ward in District 2, as it is a nice little full-of-tree peninsular on the Saigon River. We bought a little house there and enjoyed its all-year-around resort-like environment. But since we moved in, many roads had to be levelled up to cope with the rising tides, and once in a while I had to push my bike through the floods to take my son to school. If the water keeps going up like this, soon I’ll have to buy a boat instead of a nice bike for my son. Not a great future to look forward to, huh? And according to the World Bank, HCMC is one of the 10 cities most affected by climate change. So, I am making my dot today to get ready for the coming 05 May.

  • The People’s Climate March was INCREDIBLE. Check out the photos and more at peoplesclimate.org

  • People’s Climate photos pouring in from around the world — check out the growing photo galleries here.

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