Contributing to a climate-resilient Vietnam

Young Expert Carl Dirks is working as consultant urban & regional planning, water and climate resilience at HaskoningDHV Vietnam. How do you take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (SDG 13) in a country that is on the brink of its economic golden age, where the ambitions to be part of the developed world rise through the roof, and people are elated to leave the years of relative poverty behind them? “Expanding the economy and developing climate resilient environments are not natural siblings, and in uniting the two is where Young Experts like myself should play a pivotal role.”

Vietnam triggers the senses and emotions. The smells of food, the motorbikes, the bustling life all around and the apparently chaotic environment that, with the trained eye, proves to be better organised and structured than one might expect. This general experience translates outstandingly to professional life in climate resilience and urban planning as well. In his daily work Carl comes across difficult challenges in diverse projects. On a neighbourhood level, he provides frames and approaches to design areas in climate adaptive ways. Urban planning serves as a comprehensive vehicle to integrate climate resilient approaches into spatial design. On a macroscale, contributing to provincial master plans of several provinces means combining different interests and claims on land. The provinces’ need to deal with flooding, salinisation, land subsidence and heat island effects coincides with the strong economic ambitions and demand for residential and commercial development. Carl: “Experience from Dutch water policy and urban planning practice can serve as inspiration to tackle this challenge. The compact cities or growth cores policy can serve as examples of ways to prevent further urban sprawl. Room for the River and the Nature Network Netherlands can portray ways of claying the land in a way resistant to extreme weather effects and change in climate. Ideas for transport hubs and specialised clusters may improve public transit accessibility, contributing to an improved environment.”

Carl explains that on another scale, mangrove rehabilitation is aimed to lead to a coastline more resistant to flooding, erosion and salinisation. Shrimp ponds and agriculture development have given many families a certain source of income but have devastated mangrove ecosystems along the coast. How to rehabilitate these areas while securing livelihood for local residents? Carl: “Again, as a Young Expert it is welcomed to provide best practice examples on Dutch rural development, where the combination of (economic) functions is driven through the Vital Countryside policies.”

Ripple Effect

All in all, our input can contribute to the steady steering of narratives, doctrines and practices. The Netherlands and the rest of the world constantly learn from negative consequences and mistakes made in the past. Taking lessons from these mistakes and applying them to the Vietnamese context, enables this country to leapfrog in its development. Carl: “As a young professional, YEP offers me a vast network to back me in approaching the Vietnamese challenges in the best way possible. The other way around, Vietnamese lessons and best practices can be shared with colleagues in countries all over the world. In this way, YEP proves to be a vessel for the empowerment of a new generation of change makers.” 


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