A City Within A City

Waking up for the second day in Vietnam was just as exciting as the first. This morning I decided to go out of the box for breakfast and try some of the other meals the hotel had to offer. It’s an interesting experience to eat what I would normally see as lunch or dinner foods for breakfast; however, just like day one, the food was far from disappointing. Soon after we traveled to the university to attend a lecture on the rural development in the Mekong Delta. The professor for this lecture was a very impressive woman because not only did she travel to the Mekong to collect data for her own studies, but she attended a university in Australia and wrote her dissertation completely in English. This lecture helped me realize how much the rising sea levels and climate change will affect Vietnam as a whole. This delta alone accounts for both 50% of the domestic rice production and 90% of export rice and with rising sea levels, farmers are not having a consistent crop yield. Luckily, the government recognizes this major issue and is implementing programs to help farmers adjust their farming patterns and techniques to the change in climate. Along with the natural changes, there are dams being built and industrialization further upstream that limit the water flow downriver. This effect along with the salt intrusion from rising oceans makes the issue even more prevalent for the national economy as well as the livelihood and culture of the Mekong farmers.

Later in the afternoon, we visited a large development corporation called Phu My Hung Development. This corporation had a vision to turn the swamps of South Saigon into a new city center with open spaces and a high quality of living. A project of such capacity required an immense amount of planning and development even before presenting the idea for government approval. To do so, Phu My Hung worked with a foreign investor from Taiwan as well as experts in city planning from around the world to create a master plan that would convince the government of its future success. Without the pioneering investment from their Taiwanese partner, the project may never have become more than just an idea. It was made a point that the wholeheartedness of the investors is what made this project as persuasive and successful as it is because of how much it would positively change the lives of Vietnamese. One major difference between building in Vietnam versus the United States is that the Vietnamese government owns all the land in the country and developers are only able to lease it for their own purposes rather than buy lots of land for ownership. When planning, climate change was kept in mind since the building site is directly on a river bank. Vietnam is subject to major increases in sea level– it is predicted the rise be 1 meter by the year 2100. The corporation studied the tides and took data from over 100 years to calculate what elevation was safe to build on. Along with this, environmental protection and quality living are key factors in the master plan development. The complexes are so attractive to Vietnamese as well as foreigners because the buildings are not densely packed like the rest of the city which makes it possible for large open spaces and public parks. This, in turn, helps combat pollution and increases air quality for the residents living on site. For those looking to live in these areas, they would find that the complexes are very diversified with 42% foreign residents and 58% Vietnamese. The large percentage of foreign tenants contributes greatly to the company’s income that can then be reinvested into new buildings and quality living conditions. The large scale of this project also allowed for the corporation to build long 3-4 lane parkways for faster travel and more efficient transport of goods. Within the 3300 hectare area of development (approximately 13 square miles), residents can find anything from on-site schools, hospitals, shopping centers, restaurants, and many more common institutions. With its wild success, Phu My Hung contributes a large percentage to the city and national economy which may lead to similar projects in other areas. It truly is a city within a city. Phu My Hung is an example of success for this type of development not only to the Vietnamese government but to developing countries around the world.

Model of the entire 3300 hectare Phu My Hung Development site

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