Community participation in combatting flooding

During the past decades floodings in and around Quy Nhon City, Vietnam, have occured more frequently and have been more unpredictable and more extreme. As part of the ICLD training programme “SymbioCity – Inclusive Urban Development“, a team of two urban planners and one environmental officer have learnt about and used community participation to find solutions to the severe problems of flooding.

The team consists of Trang Le Thuy, Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Viet Dao Quy and Hoa Nguyen Dinh from Department of Construction. They have been working on a change project that focused on improving the situation of a riverbank community to become more resilient to increased floodings caused by poor urban development as well as climate change. The community is very vulnerable and the floodings where they live have repeatedly lead to destruction and damages of their homes as well as urban infrastructure.

Dual causes of floodings

The increased flooding is caused by both climate change and urbanization. Climate change has lead to an increase in frequency and volume of rain falls in Quy Nhon. Since the rainfalls are more unpredictable it has become harder for people to know how to prepare themselves for floodings. Normally the flood used to come in October. Now it comes in August, September or even December. It no longer follows the historical pattern and the severity of climate change makes it harder to safeguard those living alongside the river.

Urbanization is also a major factor to flooding since many man-made interventions obstruct the natural flow of the local river. For example when sections of the river have been filled to build houses the width of the the river has become more narrow leading to over flooding. Deforestation is another example of how urbanization cause flooding since the trees are important to bind water in the soil and by deforestation less water is retained. To combat this Trang, Hoa and Viet want to encourage replanting trees.

Community consultations

The team members are normally used to work with technical issues and to apply a more narrow and sector oriented approach. By participating in the SymbioCity programme, they have explored various methods to increase local democracy through inclusion and participation. Using community consultations is an example of that.

The consultations with community members contributed in an effective way for the team to find the best solutions on how to mitigate the damages from the extreme flooding situation that has affected the community living on the slopes of the riverside. Trang states that:

The SymbioCity programme has shown me new ways to identify solutions.”

The team conducted interviews and surveys with 75 local households representing different community groups including men, women and vulnerable groups. All replies were treated equally. For the team, this was the first time to develop and perform such a consultation. It was not easy, they all agree, since it was hard to reach people and also to gain the trust of people. However, afterwards they felt that stakeholder participation and engagement was important in identifying and understanding problems and proposing flood resilient solutions. Hoa confirms this:

It was beneficial to consult the locals to get access to the situational knowledge and get a better sense of the flooding situation. The interviews gave us a better understanding of how the flooding impacts the local community based on their living conditions. It also gave insight to the needs and preferences of people living at the project site.

From the interviews, the team learnt that people living on the riverbanks do not want to be relocated but that they prefer to raise the foundation of their houses to become more resilient to the floodings. The mentor for the team, Vu Canh Toan, comments on the progress of the participants and says:

“I think the programme has brought a lot of change in the team members perceptions, not the least when it comes to working on inclusion in urban planning and development.”

ICLD is impressed by this project and how the team members succesfully have used community participation in combatting flooding. We wish them all luck for the future!

Read more about the SymbioCity ITP programme