Extreme Tides Flood City Outskirts Yet Again

Ho Chi Minh City residents wade through the flooded roads in Binh Thanh District on Tuesday morning.

Every year Ho Chi Minh City spends tens of billions of dongs to reinforce the dykes and clean out the canals. Yet, when the very high tides return, once again roads and farmland are submerged and homes flooded out as the water spills over the barriers.

In Hoc Mon District, hundreds of homes and dozens of farms were inundated by the rising waters early this week, and herds of cattle had to be moved to higher ground and kept there.

On Tuesday, many people tried to fix and build up the damaged dykes as they watched the water flowing into their homes, but their work was in vain.

“I must get a boat to travel around for we cannot use the motorbike anymore. The water’s too high. My vegetable patch has been flooded; I’ve lost so much,” said senior citizen Mr. Nguyen Van Hai Ngan of Hoc Mon.

A few days ago, he said, the water had carried away furniture and many bags of mash from his neighbor’s home, and the neighbor’s cattle had nearly shared the same fate.

Mr. Nguyen Minh Hung from one of the flooded villages said another dyke was being built but the work was going very slowly.

In these densely populated villages, the people have never heard of dyke reinforcement. Every year, large swathes of crops are ruined.

District 12 has also been flooded after the riverbanks were breached and dykes severely damaged. Fortunately, no other damage has been reported, for now at least.

In Thu Duc on the other side of the city, more than 50 homes are half a meter underwater after the high tides eroded the riverbanks. The plant nurseries have also suffered, with thousands of apricot trees being cultivated for Tet getting damaged by the water.

Flooding and its effects can be seen everywhere when the peak tides come back, but this year seems particularly bad, much worse than in 2005.

There’s lots of hand wringing but nobody has come up with a practical solution to this annual problem. The city spends tens of billions of dong on dyke reinforcement yearly, yet the dykes are still broken by the predictable waters.

Mr. Tran Van Hung is an official of Nhi Binh village, the lowest terrain in Hoc Mon. He makes the important point that only a few of the dykes are built by the government; most are erected by the locals using whatever comes to hand so they are not strong enough to hold back the extreme tides at this time of year.

Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Huynh from one of the irrigation companies says immediate steps will be taken to shore up the vulnerable dykes and mechanical pumps will be used to drain the floodwater from the villages.

He suggests that the government pay more attention to the main riverbanks, and that the city cooperate with the government to strengthen the banks of the smaller rivers and channels. Responsibility for the small canals and channels should rest with the district authorities.

By QH - Translated by Van Hanh

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