In 1921, architect Ernest Hébrard visited Vietnam to plan the development of Da Lat and started field research in Hanoi.
The spatial planning outline of Hanoi released by architect Ernest Hébrard in 1923 and the Hanoi space development plan by 2010 released in 1995
Two years later, he was appointed director of Indochina department of planning and architecture and published the spatial planning outline of Hanoi.
The Hanoi development plan focused only on developing the riverside southward, while the northern riverside was untouched. This was because the Red River was ‘gentle’ in the dry season but became aggressive in the flood season, which went beyond the technical capabilities at that time.
The big flood in 1926 directly threatened the inner city and only when the Lam Du dyke broke did the danger ease. The dykes around Hanoi have dammed up, creating a wall that splits streets and the riverbank.
In 1995, Hanoi released the space development outline to 2010, when the city celebrated the 1,000th anniversary of Thang Long – Hanoi's establishment.
However, Hanoians were still haunted by a big flood from upstream that occurred three years before, despite the existence of Da River hydropower dam. So Thang Long and Chuong Duong Bridges were then built later.
However, the city development still focused on the southern riverside.
In 1995-1998, foreign investors gave wings to the dream about a city on two riverbanks. The new city of Bac Song Hong suggested by Daewoo was larger than Hanoi’s inner city, which had been taking shape for 100 years.
To connect the two riverbanks, Hanoi designed six more bridges.
The city was expected to be enlarged by 2030 with the administrative boundary increasing by three times. The design of 15 bridges is in the new city development plan.
At the beginning of the second millennium, Hanoi had more bridges, Thanh Tri (2005), Vinh Tuy (2010) and Nhat Tan (2015). The riverbanks have become closer with a series of real estate projects developed.
But Hanoi also faces traffic congestion, river pollution, and garbage and air pollution. More seriously, the Red River is seeing its clean water storage space shrink due to people’s encroachment and water resources decline in volume and quality.
|In the past, the pump stations along Red River could get water if hydropower reservoirs just discharged 2.5 billion cubic meters of water. But now, even when 4.3-5.7 billion cubic meters of water is discharged, some stations still cannot get water. The water volume stored at reservoirs is small.|
Hydrological statistics show that the river water flow is decreasing. The upstream dams (including the Da River) are preventing alluvial sediment from going downstream. Water pollution from the watershed and localities has been identified by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the World Bank, but no solution has been found.
While danger for floods is on the decrease, the risk of city inundation because of rain is on the rise. Not only Hanoi, but all 11 cities on the river suffer from inundation. The irrigation system has improved over the last 1,000 years but it has become ineffective.
According to the General Department of Irrigation under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in the past, the pump stations along Red River could get water if hydropower reservoirs just discharged 2.5 billion cubic meters of water. But now, even when 4.3-5.7 billion cubic meters of water is discharged, some stations still cannot get water. The water volume stored at reservoirs is small.
The Red River has total water capacity of 118 billion cubic meters per annum, but 70 percent of the volume comes in flood season, while it lacks water in dry season. So, more water storage spaces are needed, including low-lying and semi-submerged areas.
Pierre Gourou, a French geographer, said the major floods in the early 20th century alone caused Tich and Day River valleys to flood.
A French irrigation expert built a Red River flood drainage corridor which served as a ‘water valve’ to save Hanoi, and a semi-submerged alluvial area for agriculture and fishery development.
Before merging with Hanoi, Ha Tay province had allocated tens of thousands of hectares to investors to develop real estate projects, thus posing challenges for Red River planning.
Red River solutions
Hanoi lies between rivers. The Song Me – Song Ca (the old name of the Red River, which means Mother River) created a prosperous Hanoi.
Hanoi, for the first time, doesn’t intend to build houses and sell land, but has placed as a top priority the task of ensuring enough water for the Red river in the dry season and safety in the flood season, using the ‘thuan thien’ (let things flow naturally) as the principle.
Tran Huy Anh
Hanoi Architects Association
It is expected that Hanoi authorities in June will approve and issue the Red River subdivision planning, which will help the capital city become more spacious and modern.
The tugging rituals and folk games were honored by UNESCO in 2015 as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity, a multi-national project of Vietnam, the Republic of Korea, Cambodia, and the Philippines.