13 Oct 2022
13 Oct 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal NHESS.

Low-regret Climate Change Adaptation in Coastal Megacities – Evaluating Large-Scale Flood Protection and Small-Scale Rainwater Detention Measures for Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Leon Scheiber1, C. Gabriel David2, Mazen Hoballah Jalloul1, Jan Visscher1, Hong Quan Nguyen3,4, Roxana Leitold5, Javier Revilla Diez5, and Torsten Schlurmann1 Leon Scheiber et al.
  • 1Ludwig-Franzius-Institute for Hydraulics, Estuarine and Coastal Engineering, Leibniz University Hannover, 30167 Hannover, Germany
  • 2Leichtweiß-Institute for Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources, Division of Hydromechanics, Coastal and Ocean Engineering, Technische Universität Braunschweig, 38106 Braunschweig, Germany
  • 3Institute for Circular Economy Development, Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh City, 700000 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • 4Institute for Environment and Resources, Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh City, 700000 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • 5Institute of Geography and Global South Studies Center, University of Cologne, 50923 Cologne, Germany

Abstract. The risk of urban flooding is a major challenge for many megacities in low elevation coastal zones (LECZ), especially in Southeast Asia. Here, the effects of environmental stressors overlap with rapid urbanization, which significantly aggravates the hazard potential in these regions. Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) in Southern Vietnam is a prime example of this set of problems and therefore a meaningful study case to apply the concept of low-regret disaster risk adaptation as defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In order to explore and evaluate potential options for hazard mitigation, a hydro-numerical model was employed to scrutinize the effectiveness of two adaptation strategies: (1) a large-scale flood protection scheme as currently constructed in HCMC and (2) the widespread installation of small-scale rainwater detention as envisioned in the framework of the Chinese Sponge City Program (SPM). A third adaptation scenario (3) assesses the combined implementation of both approaches (1) and (2).

From a hydrological point of view, the reduction of various flood intensity proxies suggests that the effectiveness of large-scale flood protection outweighs that of small-scale rainwater storage by far. For example, an assessment of the Normalized Flood Severity Index (NFSI) suggests a potential flood reduction that is 3.5 times higher for a classic infrastructure solution than for the Sponge City approach. In contrast, the number of manufacturing firms that are protected from risk after the implementation of disaster risk adaptation significantly excels for the latter response option: while the ring dike mitigates flooding at about 20 % of all considered locations, the assumed rainwater detention would protect up to 93 %. And also, from a governance perspective, decentralized rainwater storage conforms better to the low-regret paradigm: while the large-scale ring dike depends on a binary commitment (to build or not to build), decentralized small- and micro-scale solutions can be implemented gradually (through targeted subsidies) and add technical redundancy to the overall system. In the end, both strategies are highly complementary in their spatial and temporal reduction of flood intensity, so local decision-makers may specifically seek multi-faceted strategies, avoiding singular approaches and designing adaptation pathways in order to successfully prepare for a deeply uncertain future.

Leon Scheiber et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on nhess-2022-239', Anonymous Referee #1, 04 Nov 2022
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Leon Scheiber, 23 Dec 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on nhess-2022-239', Anonymous Referee #2, 14 Nov 2022
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Leon Scheiber, 23 Dec 2022

Leon Scheiber et al.

Leon Scheiber et al.


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Short summary
Like many other megacities in low elevation coastal zones, Ho Chi Minh City in Southern Vietnam suffers from the convoluting impact of changing environmental stressors and rapid urbanization. This study assesses quantitative hydro-numerical results against the background of the low-regret paradigm for (1) a large-scale flood protection scheme as currently constructed and (2) the widespread implementation of small-scale rainwater detention as envisioned in the Chinese Sponge City Program.