A political economy of urbanisation and climate risk in Vietnam

Type Working Paper
Title A political economy of urbanisation and climate risk in Vietnam
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2016
URL http://pubs.iied.org/pdfs/10790IIED.pdf
This report uses a problem-driven political economy approach to analyse how the
leadership of three mid-sized cities in Vietnam, Can Tho, Quy Nhon and Da Nang, are
trying to pursue their urban growth ambitions under conditions of increasing awareness
of climate change risks. For nearly two decades, urban growth has been both an
indicator and target for social development and economic progress in Vietnam. Under
the banner of modernisation and industrialisation, the Ministry of Construction created a
fine-grained regulatory structure that uses the classification of urban areas to encourage
spatially balanced growth. In recent years, however, those regulatory structures have
been used by some provincial authorities not only as standards for urban classification,
but also as means targeting urban growth. The realisation of these urban growth
ambitions has been facilitated by a shifting political economy in which a liberalised
urban development sector fuses with the institutions of socialist planning, aligned
with the interest of political and business elites. However, this compromised urban
growth machinery is increasingly meeting challenges with respect to social, economic
and particularly environmental sustainability. Climate change-related risks serve as
a magnifier for these challenges, especially in the realm of environmental hazards.
Cities do not only grow into areas highly exposed to natural hazards such as floods or
typhoons but also intensify the impacts of these very hazards, particularly flooding, due
to their consumption of open space and encroachment into wetlands, floodplains and
coastal areas. Despite the emerging acknowledgement of such risks, incentives within
the political administrative system continue to pull decision makers along an urban
growth pathway that is likely to increase the vulnerability of Vietnamese cities to climate
change. Getting incentives, standards and procedures, and systems of accountability for
urban development right, therefore, becomes the key to urban climate change resilience.

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