1 Living With Water: Formal Models of Settlements in Vietnam Mekong Delta Arlene Christy D. Lusterio Executive Director, TAO-Pilipinas, Inc. ABSTRACT The study looks at sustainable settlements development in river basin and coastal environments. It examines three rural settlements in Vietnam Mekong Delta: one in Mekong River basin, and two in coastal area bordering the South China Sea. Settlements development in the Delta is anchored on the policy to live with and control water, increase agricultural productivity and alleviate poverty. The selected settlements highlight four measures: water control system and disaster considerations in planning, compensation and rehabilitation measures, poverty reduction, and environmental protection. Planning and design for river basin and coastal settlements require considerations for the following: i. Site conditions and seasonal changes bringing floods and typhoons and their impact on the living condition, movement of people and goods and socio-economic activities; ii. Environmental limits of natural and human-induced processes that affect biodiversity and ecological balance; and iii. Linkages between the natural and built environment that influence the socio-economic development of the affected population. Sustainable river basin and coastal settlements development requires respect for environment keeping the symbiotic relationship between man and nature, and the attainment of national economic objectives. 2 1. INTRODUCTION 1.1 BACKGROUND This study focuses on sustainable human settlements development in coastal areas and river basin of Vietnam Mekong Delta. The study was conducted to present models of river basin and coastal settlements to determine considerations for planning and design. 1.2. RATIONAL The option to develop formal settlements on water is hindered by the absence of an acceptable concept of formal living on water1 and the environmental and sanitation issues surrounding such settlements. It is further challenged by the lack of guidelines, standards and a legal framework. The study of settlements under the policy of living with water, though focuses on structural measures and engineered sites that are not necessarily environment-friendly, will provide a broader picture and a better understanding of the crucial components of our ecosystem that are at play and must be considered in the planning and development of settlements in river basins and coastal areas of similar situation. 1.3. OBJECTIVES This research aims to document planned settlements and propose planning and design criteria for formal coastal human settlements development. Taking Southern Vietnam as a case study, the following are the specific objectives: 1. Document one planned settlement in the Mekong River basin affected by periodic flooding; and two planned coastal settlements along the South China Sea affected by climatic changes, coastal erosion and salinity intrusion; in all cases poverty is a factor as target groups in the selected cases are all poor. 2. Based on the analysis of case studies, propose planning, design and development considerations or guidelines. 3 1.4. METHODOLOGY Research was conducted in two levels: preliminary research made use of secondary data for site background research; and primary research involved initial site visits to six provinces and follow-up site visits to three provinces (Ca Mau, Tra Vinh and An Giang) selected from the initial six provinces. A survey and key informant interviews were conducted. The survey questionnaire was designed to: (1) validate initial information gathered about the projects and gather information on experiences of families in their before and after resettlement situation; (2) draw out community perception of the old and new settlement on how it responds to their needs. A total of 45 respondents from the 3 three sites and 8 key informants directly involved in the 3 projects participated in the surveys and interviews. A short visit to Cambodia was made to look at government initiatives to address flooding that may directly impact on flood mitigating measures planned and undertaken in Vietnam. Visits to provinces affected by the periodic overflowing of Mekong River tributaries were made. Key informant interviews were also conducted. 1.4.1 Site Selection Criteria Provinces were selected based on geographic location as typical examples of settlements in two settings: (1) those within the Mekong River Basin; and (2) those along the coast of South China Sea. (3) Another consideration is the presence of a contact international nongovernmental organization (INGO) with settlements-related projects in the area, Swiss Red Cross (SRC). Three sites were selected: 1. Ho Gui Resettlement Project in Nam Can District, Ca Mau. 2. Gia Vet Resettlement Project in Duyen Hai District, Tra Vinh. 3. Hoa Binh Resettlement Project in Phu Tan District, An Giang. 1.5 SCOPE AND LIMITATION 4 The study deals with sustainable settlements development focusing on: the physical and environmental conditions, and socio-economic processes and activities, available building technology and covers only Hoa Binh Resettlement Project in An Giang, located within the Mekong River Basin, and Ho Gui and Gia Vet Resettlement Projects in Ca Mau and Tra Vinh respectively, in the coastal area along the South China Sea. The cases studied are rural and some findings may not apply to urban setting. 2. THE MEKONG DELTA OF VIETNAM The Delta lies at the southern tip of the Mekong River system with an area of 3.9M hectares (39,000 km2) (van Zalinge et al, 2003; Hashimoto, 2001) and is home to more than 16 million people approximately 22% of the country’s population (Hashimoto, 2001), the highest population is in the Lower Mekong Basin growing at a rate of 2% annually (van Zalinge et al, 2003). The Delta is generally below 5m above sea level to the north and goes below sea level at the south and western regions. It is subjected to annual flooding covering 1.9M hectares (19,000 km2) and inundation above 1m covers 1.0M hectares (10,000 km2) (Tin and Ghassemi, 1999 as cited in Hashimoto, 2001). Highest flood levels reach up to 4 meters and last for 6 months (Hashimoto, 2001). Flooding coincides with the rainy season (May to November) that brings 90 to 94% of the total annual rainfall (Can Tho University, 1995; Hashimoto, 2001). During the dry season (December to April), salt water intrusion goes as far as 40 to 50 km inland (ESCAP, 1998 as cited in van Zalinge et al, 2003; Wolanski et al, 1998 as cited in Hashimoto, 2001) covering an area of about 2.04M hectares (20,400 km2) (Can Tho University, 1995). The floods from the north carry sediments that are eventually deposited at the southern tip of Ca Mau Peninsula through tidal movements. This gradual deposition of sediments expands the Delta by 10 to 20 meters per year (Nguyen et al, undated). Soil type in the Delta is dominantly acid sulphate soil (43.20%) covering Dong Thap Muoi, Long Xuyen Quadrangle and Ca Mau; Alluvium (38.09%) is found along the banks of Hau and Tien rivers; saline soil (18.04%) in the coastal area along the South China Sea; and peaty soil (0.67%) 5 in U Minh Thuong and U Minh areas (Le, undated.; Can Tho University, 1995). Current land use in the Delta is dominantly agricultural (75%) and residential or homestead land covers only 2.5%. (Landsat ETM and Spot Images, 2002; Vo, undated; Statistical Yearbook, 2001 as cited in Environmental Research Center, 2005). 2.1 SETTLEMENTS DEVELOPMENT IN THE MEKONG DELTA OF VIETNAM Settlements development in Vietnam is defined by a resettlement policy embodied in a resettlement action plan2 (RAP); a socialist concept of security of tenure defined by Land Use Rights Certificates3; and the physical environment that is generally wetland subjected to periodic flooding, soil erosion, saline water intrusion, strong winds, typhoons and storm surge. 2.2 FORMAL MODELS OF SETTLEMENTS Three projects were studied: (1) in Mekong River basin, Hoa Binh Sluice Resettlement Project in Phu Tan District, An Giang; (2) in the coastal area, Gia Vet Resettlement Project in Duyen Hai District, Tra Vinh and Ho Gui Resettlement Project in Nam Can District, Ca Mau. The main source of income in An Giang and Tra Vinh is providing farm labor, while in Ho Gui most people work as fishing crew in big fishing vessels. Second highest source of income is business/small trade in An Giang, and fishing in Tra Vinh and Ho Gui. Ho Gui and Tra Vinh households earn less than poverty line of VND183,0004 (US$11.44) per capita per month. An Giang residents are more stable than other cases studied, with only 2% of the project affected households (PAHs) earning below poverty line. Houses in Hoa Binh, except for some PAHs living near the market whose houses were made of bricks and tiles, were temporary. In Tra Vinh and Ho Gui, all houses were temporary mostly made of thatch and wood. 2.2.1 The Project Description 1. Hoa Binh Sluice Resettlement Project 6 Phu Tan District experienced flood levels ranging from 2m to 5m and lasts more than 6 months in 2000 (Major Flood Depths Map year 2000 of Cambodia and Vietnam Delta, Mekong River Commission, 2003). It is surrounded by three rivers Tien (Mekong), Hau (Bassac) and Vam Nao. The Hoa Binh Sluice Resettlement Project is a resettlement for 55 PAHs affected by the construction of Hoa Binh sluice gate, part of North Vam Nao Water Control Project (NVNWCP). The resettlement site is developed as a residential cluster5, with a land area of 31,500m2 and accommodates 105 households in 9m x 16m lots. Overbank flooding from Tien to Hau River is prevented by the dike system. Storm and wind pose no threat in the river basin, hence no buffer area has been provided in the residential cluster design. 2. The Gia Vet Resettlement Project The Gia Vet Resettlement Project is part of the Coastal Wetland Protection and Development Project (CWPDP) which aims for long-term rehabilitation of mangrove forests in the coastal area, along with economic development of poor farmers depending on mangroves for subsistence. Project affected households living within the Full Protection Zone6 (FPZ), were relocated to a resettlement site in the Buffer Zone7 (BZ) where an integrated livelihood program (shrimp farming) is provided. Compensation and rehabilitation measures determined the resettlement package for each PAH (Draft Resettlement Action Plan, 1999). Gia Vet Resettlement Site is located in Phuoc Thien Hamlet, Dong Hai Village, Duyen Hai District, Tra Vinh. The area is surrounded by permanently saline soil and dry season saline soil (Can Tho University, 1995) suitable for shrimp farming. Gia Vet, has an area of 2.7 hectares for 44 residential lots with an area of 250m2. Additional shrimp ponds of about 1 hectare are provided for each PAH (Gia Vet Site Plan, 2002). The FPZ serves as the main buffer against the wind and storm coming from the South China Sea. Along the coast, a dike protects the shoreline of the four provinces (Tra Vinh, Bac Lieu, Soc Trang and CA Mau) against coastal erosion. 7 3. The Ho Gui Resettlement Project The Ho Gui Resettlement Project is part of poverty reduction program and resettlement of families living in areas prone to bank erosion and landslides of Ca Mau Province. It is located at the south bank of Ho Gui River, about 2 kilometers from its original site, in the southeast portion of Ca Mau Peninsula. It has an area of 25 hectares elevated at 1.0m to 1.2m above the highest water line. It houses 204 households provided with water and power supply, primary school, market and health clinic. The houses face the inner channel and away from the river to shelter people from the direct wind and storm. A 50-m wide buffer area from the bank of the river is provided for protection. The inner channel is shaped in such a way as to provide protection to the northwest portion of the site where monsoon winds are strong. 3. ANALYZING RESETTLEMENT INITIATIVES IN THE CONTEXT OF THE DELTA ENVIRONMENTS AND ECONOMIC POLICY 3.1 PLANNING, DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT CONSIDERATIONS FOR RIVER BASIN AND COASTAL SETTLEMENTS The following are the planning, design and development considerations noted in the cases studied. Groupings are made according to sustainability factors: social, economic and physical/environmental. 3.1.1 Social Considerations 1. Minimizing dislocation and social impact To minimize project impact on existing settlement fabric and reduce resettlement costs strict documentation and development plan adjustments were made. Resettlement sites were located near the original site, or within the same village. Where possible, pre-existing social structures was maintained through group resettlement. The host community represented by 8 the hamlet leader is involved in project planning and implementation, to minimize the adverse impact. 3.1.2 Economic Considerations 1. On Security of Tenure All PAHs who can prove consistent occupation of land for a long period are eligible for land compensation of equal value, area or productivity to their occupied land. All PAHs are accommodated in the resettlement site as long as they prove to live in the site before cut-off date. All relocated PAHs are issued a red book as proof of legal tenure. 2. Compensation and Rehabilitation Measures and Community Participation Careful mapping and documentation of affected properties serve as bases of compensation based on market or replacement value. Valuation is also subject to discussion with and agreement/approval of the PAHs. Rehabilitation measures are provided to PAHs whose livelihoods are affected by resettlement. 3. Livelihood Development, Increase in Agricultural Productivity and Poverty Reduction Livelihood development in the Delta comes in three levels: (1) large-scale infrastructure development for agriculture and aquaculture production in support of Vietnam’s economic objectives directly benefits the landed farmers and indirectly the landless farmers dependent on providing farm labor; (2) small-scale support for backyard farming or landless farmers directly benefits the individual households and is more effective where livelihood space is allocated with the residential plots; and (3) household member skills training support directly benefits the individual and household but is not very effective in the cases studied. 3.1.3 Physical/Environmental Considerations 1. Site Selection 9 Site selection is primarily dependent on availability of land administered by the Provincial People’s Committee. Other criteria include: (1) safety from natural hazards such as floods, erosion and typhoon; (2) proximity to social infrastructures (market, place of worship, school, health center) and the source of income. 2. Planning Critical planning considerations includes: Site orientation and protective buffer – in the coastal areas, orienting the site away from monsoon and typhoon paths is important in reducing damage to property and life. A protective buffer of trees shield the site from strong wind and typhoon. Accessibility – in coastal areas, access to water is important for efficient movement of people and goods between settlements, especially during construction. In cases studied, no car access is provided. Suitable docking infrastructure should be provided to accommodate water transport. Car access is only possible in the river basin settlements. Site Layout –General layout is influenced by the land and water structure. Centralized location of facilities in a linear plan leaves those located at the edges at a disadvantage. Easements are defined by utilities and public space in coastal sites. In the river basin, residential clusters are sprawling and residential dykes are linear similar to coastal settlements. Intensity of Use – low density is maintained for residential use. Non-intensive agricultural production is highly recommended for shrimp and rice farming. 3. Site Development Notable and innovative approaches to site development include: Raised mound - ground level is raised from 0.5m to 1.2m above flood line. 10 Inner channel construction – a 30m-wide inner channel is constructed away from the direction of wind to provide protected access for fishing boats or canoes. The soil taken from the channel was used to fill the raised mound. Fishpond and settlement combination – a fishpond is provided together with the residential plot as part of resettlement package. Soil taken from the fishpond is used to fill the roads and residential plots. Road-dike and sluice system – the dike that serves to protect farm land8 or a residential cluster is built wide enough at the top for use as road accessible to motorbikes or bicycles. The sluice gate serves as water control system as well as access points for small boats crossing production units. 4. Infrastructure Flood protection – the dike and sluice system was effective in protecting life and property against flood but possible design adjustments must be made to make the solution environment-friendly. See 3.2 At War with Nature: The Possible Consequences. Basic services like water and power must be part of the resettlement package. Facilities like school, health center, market and place of worship should be near the site. 5. Housing Materials and Building Technology Galvanized steel frames on screw pier foundation – the Swiss Red Cross employed disaster-proof construction, the system enables screwed connection with the ground and fast construction system suitable for emergency relief. Regular maintenance however, is important especially in the corrosive environment of the Delta. Lightweight construction - generally, most of the houses built are lightweight and temporary, such building materials are suitable only for rural settings. Incremental development – gradual improvement of houses that can take as long as two years is a scheme that is suitable to poor households. Availability of building materials at 11 the site reduces the difficulty of individual procurement in less accessible resettlement area. 6. Mono-cropping The unsustainable practice of mono-cropping (rice only or shrimp only production) may eventually result to loss/extinction of some species of plants and animals reducing biodiversity and adversely affecting ecological balance. Adjustment must be studied to fulfill economic objectives with the least impact on the natural environment. 7. Sanitation and Solid Waste Management A toilet with septic tank linked to the sewer or drainage system is provided. Communitybased solid waste management should be considered especially in areas where garbage collection is not possible. 3.2 AT WAR WITH NATURE: THE POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES The structural approach to address flooding though effective in protecting human lives and property, significantly damaged the natural environment. As design assumptions of the dikes are based on existing situation, occurrence of adverse environmental changes in the future, limits the Delta’s ability to respond and adjust naturally to the changes. The worst scenario is the gradual loss of active delta ecosystem comparative to what happened to the Mississippi Delta (Hashimoto, 2001). Such changes in the responses of the Delta will only be visible after 20 years. As recommended by Hashimoto, adjustment to the design of the dike system in the Delta is possible to both protect human lives and property from floods and at the same time allow the Delta ecosystem to respond naturally to the systemic changes brought about by climate change. 3.3 CONTRAST WITH CAMBODIAN ATTITUDE TOWARDS FLOOD 12 Where the policy in Vietnam is “Living with Water”, Cambodia see the floods as the time to move up and out of the water, search for dry land and return when it is gone. They move houses to the mountains during the floods and move and build them back again when the water is gone. Those who do not have the option to leave, live with it but not on it. They build tall stilted houses that surpass the highest floods recorded. Living with water is absolutely not the Cambodian tradition. The response to flooding in Cambodia is directed towards awareness and capabilitybuilding. The means of protecting life and property is by temporary relocation. Lack of government financial resources makes it difficult to provide even the minimum of safety during floods such as life jackets for school children and evacuation centers. Where Cambodia has dry land for retreat, Southern Vietnam is generally enundated during floods. Hence, living with water is the more feasible approach. Only it must be done in a more environment-friendly manner. 4. CONCLUSION 4.1 ON SETTLEMENTS PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT Settlements development in river basin and coastal areas of Vietnam is primarily guided by the country’s policy to live with water under the assumption that water can be controlled. Such an approach has proven effective in the first 4 years of fighting flood in An Giang province. But as government engineers estimated, the life of residential cluster/dykes were projected to last 30 years (Adam Fforde and Associates Pty Ltd, 2003) before it settles and may again be underwater. Inner channel construction is seen as a trend in settlements development not only in Ho Gui but in other newer resettlement projects in the coastal area. The pattern of settlement structure following a strict linear form with ordered layer of river, settlement and inner canal is seen anywhere in the Delta and is a visible organic settlement pattern, that seemed to have been well adapted in formal settlements planning. 4.2 ON SOCIO - ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT 13 The aim to improve economic capacity and living condition was partial to protecting the human environment and economic objectives and has not given equal consideration to the preservation of the natural environment. Livelihood development in the bigger scale has benefited landed farmers, but not the PAHs who are extremely poor. Integrating livelihood development in settlements development as a means of sustaining the community, though a component of all resettlement action plan, lacks financial support that will enable the program to take-off and effectively improve the economic capacity of PAHs. Although Tra Vinh authorities boast of 80% job generation among trained women in the resettlement areas in the province, none of those women were in the case study site, Gia Vet. Skills training have not significantly improved job creation for trained individuals. 4.3 ON ENVIRONMENTAL PRESERVATION The concern for environmental protection in the Delta in general has been translated to controlling water and reducing damage to crops and human life and property. Consideration for ecological balance and marine biodiversity however was undermined by the enthusiasm to yield more rice and shrimp for the export market. The effects of ecological disruption induced by the dikes and sluice system may not be felt in the next twenty years, but similar experience in Mississippi Delta could give a good view of the future Vietnam Mekong Delta if structural measures are not redesigned. 5. RECOMMENDATIONS A good complimentary research could dwell on the following topics that could lead to more feasible options in dealing with flooding in the delta environment: 1. Comparative analysis of structural and non-structural flood mitigating measures in a delta environment looking at economic and environmental consequences and sustainability. 2. Design of floating settlements for flood season looking at considerations for safety, docking infrastructure and location, economy and possible adaptation to local culture. 14 3. Environmentally-responsive design alternatives to structural flood mitigating measures, looking at adjustment to typical dike and sluice system design applied to address flooding. 4. 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World Bank, 1999, Coastal Wetland Protection and Development Project Draft Resettlement Action Plan, RP-0013, Vol. 1, 117pp. 16 1 May mean living in a wetland environment, along the river bank or coastal area, or in a lake under periodic assault by water, in a house –on - stilts on ground or floating on water 2 The Resettlement Action Plan defines compensation entitlements, rehabilitation measures and financial assistance extended to infrastructure project affected households (PAHs). Compensation for land and property in case the State recovers land is guided by the principle wherein compensation to PAHs should improve or at least maintain their former living condition. Compensation is based on type of impact (house, land, trees, ponds, fish, graves, etc.). 3 Security of tenure is established by the possession of a Land Use Rights Certificate (LURC) or the red book3 which serves as a basis for entitlement in case the land is recovered by the State. 4 Set by the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs. Currency conversion is computed at 1US$ = 16000 VND. 5 A residential cluster, locally referred to as cum, is a concentrated residential area surrounded by dikes, with a land area of 2-3 hectares for 100 – 200 households. It is composed of housing foundations 80m2 to 120m2 in area, raised about 0.50m - 0.60m above the highest flood line; and a house with a minimum area of 32 m2 (4m x 8m). Semi-self-disintegrating toilets were provided but are not functional as report by Adam Fforde and Associates Pty Ltd, 2003. 6 Zoned for mangrove reforestation where tree felling, collection and destruction of live vegetation , soil mining, settlements, commercial fishing with nets and traps, capturing or netting fish, shrimp/shrimp larvae, hunting and trapping of wild animals and other forms of exhaustive resource use is not allowed. 7 Zoned for settlements in existing community centers, subject to land allocation, use rights and land titles issued by the District People’s Committee, aquaculture and mangrove forest development, forest-cum-shrimp production under Fisheries-Forest Enterprise (FFE) or Forest Protection and Management (FPMB), silviculture treatment, harvesting of forest products and dead wood, breeding of bees and other animals, recreation, scientific research and eco-tourism development. 8 A region or sub-region of rice paddies defined by a system of canals and irrigation.