Ho Chi Minh City – Vietnam

Vietnam has one of the fastest rates of urbanization in the world, with almost half of the country’s population expected to be living in cities by 2030. While more than two-thirds of the population still live and work in provincial towns and villages, the east-coast cities of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Danang and Haiphong are growing rapidly due to the employment opportunities that have arisen from Vietnam’s entry into the World Trade Organization and its consequent integration into the global economy.

Ho Chi Minh City is located in the south of Vietnam and is part of the large Mekong River Delta. Following reunification in 1976, the city was renamed and established to include the former Saigon and surrounding districts. It is the economic and financial hub of Vietnam and continues to attract migrants from the provinces, resulting in rapid population growth. With the recent expansion of a free-market system, many multinational and local businesses and facilities can be found in the city, rapidly changing the skyline. In 2009 the city’s official population was 5,929,479 but the unofficial population is estimated to be over eight million people. This disparity between these figures is due to the high level of unregistered rural–urban migration and the spread of settlement, housing and industry beyond official statistical boundaries.

Urban poverty is on the rise in Vietnam. While most poverty is concentrated in rural areas, the proportion in cities is growing as Vietnam moves through the double transition from rural to urban, and from a planned to market economy. Living conditions have deteriorated for many civil servants who were made redundant as part of the latter transition and had to seek employment in the market system. The rising numbers of unregistered rural migrants moving to cities lack access to social services and face unstable employment and housing with at least 300,000 people living in slums in Ho Chi Minh City. Land prices increased by over 500 per cent in the 1990s, making it difficult for either the government or private sector to redress housing shortages.

The national urban development strategy focuses on these problems and includes actions aimed at: decreasing densities in urban cores of large cities and increasing peri-urban densities; reducing loss of prime agricultural land resulting from poorly managed peri-urban development; relocating polluting factories from inner cities to outer areas; stemming squatter settlements and implementing measures to increase the supply of urban housing; and improving the provision of urban services, especially water, sanitation, waste management and public transport.

The Mekong Delta is among the world’s most threatened regions from global climate change and faces a serious risk from sea-level rise and climate change induced disasters. With an expected population growth Ho Chi Minh City faces increasing densification and overcrowding of the inner city districts together with expansion into surrounding areas, often by reclaiming land from the swamps that characterize the geography of the region. With the encroaching city, the future of this ecosystem seems uncertain.

Vietnam is a key focus of RMIT University and continues to be an important emphasis of the Institute. The Global Cities Institute has made a major commitment to research in Vietnam. Key partnerships include the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences and the Vietnam Green Building Council. The work of the Global Cities Institute in Vietnam is led by John Fien and Ngan Collins.

Infrastructure scoping study: sustainable built environments in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City

The proposed project is in conjunction with the Climate Change Adaptation programme of the Global Cities Institute and in partnership with the Viet Nam Green Building Council. VGBC-GCI research collaboration will speed the development of sustainable/adaptive engineering and architecture in Viet Nam. There are two initial Phase I elements which will produce peer-reviewed publications and lead to funding from a range of institutions, allowing continuation and amplification.

Vietnam scoping study

To establish relationships of trust between RMIT researchers and urban authorities in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi in order to be in a position to be a partner of choice and seek collaborative research projects funded by development agencies, ADB, etc. There will be an emphasis on sharing experiences between these Vietnamese cities, the City of Melbourne and Melbourne local councils in order to establish cross-city learning and capacity building.