HCMC Dining Guide

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Water World

In my first three years in Saigon, I remember occasional street flooding during the wet season, but it rarely got out of hand. Every year since 2010, though, it seems the monsoon has gotten longer and more extreme. No one seems to have any idea when it will end these days. When I was new to the city the consensus was early/mid-October; now everyone throws up their hands and says "It'll end when it ends." Here we are, almost to November, and the rains show no sign of letting up. We've had a couple of two or three-day dry stretches that hint, tantalizingly, at what is to come, only to have several days of extreme downpours to follow.

What is most different about these storms, though, is the flooding they are causing. Over the last few weeks I've seen stories about severe flooding more days than not. The worst-hit areas always seem to be in the western (Districts 6, 10, 11) and southern (Nha Be, District 7) parts of town, although the district I live in has plenty of issues as well. Somehow downtown seems to escape the brunt of the waters, which is better for the economy I suppose, but the rest of the city is getting hammered.

There are a number of reasons behind the worsening floods: urban development has wiped out natural areas that used to act as drainage basins; garbage suffocates drains and sewers since littering is so common; and the city is literally sinking since so much groundwater is being extracted. It is striking to live in a city that is surrounded by water and sits below sea level yet has no system of dikes or levees. It is completely exposed to the elements. There are major drainage projects going on across the city, but they clearly aren't doing much (or perhaps they are and it would be even worse otherwise). Like the issue of traffic congestion, it seems the city is doing too little, too late and will simply be overwhelmed. Experts are already predicting that a mega-flood like the one that hit Bangkok a couple of years ago is increasingly likely here. This hasn't stopped officials from making ridiculous proclamations though - the Vice Chairman of the city People's Committee recently demanded that the transport department eliminate all flood-prone areas (apparently there are 27) by the end of next year. This is so laughable I have to hope he was drunk when he said it.

It seems that residents of Saigon are going to be dealing with a lot of water for a long time. Here's what that looks like, with photos courtesy of Tuoi Tre.









6 comments:

  1. How long does the flood water take to recede Mike? You have any problems with your motorbike?

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    1. Luckily my neighborhood has only flooded badly once, and my bike died when water got into the exhaust system. I never have reason to go to the western districts but it sounds like it takes a couple of hours for the water to drain.

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  2. Hmm..I was thinking of going back to Vietnam for a 1 month vacation in August next year..but it doesn't look so fun with all that rain. LOL @ the last picture

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    1. Ha yea that's a good shot. I'd advise against August, especially in the south.

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  3. I live in D11, and you can have a lot of fun sitting in the living room in a downpour and watching what kind of stuff will float down the alley. I got a free broom :-)

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