In my recent blogs, I mentioned two places that most people may be familiar with, The Great Barrier Reef and Venice. For this next blog, I want to focus on a location that is not as popular. Bellow, I will talk about Hoi An, Vietnam and its culture and tourism, and how climate change plays a negative role in them.
Hoi An, Vietnam is an ancient town founded in the 15th century. It is located in the province of Quang Nam near the basin of the Thu Bon River. The urbanized sections of the town are between 0-15 meters above sea level. The low-level elevations near the river often experiences erosion. On average, about two high tides per day occur off the coast and raises 1.4 meters above sea level. The town’s average daily temperature is 25.6°C and has about 147 rainy days throughout the year.
This town was a trading port for Southeast and East Asia to trade with the rest of the world. This is an example of a town that is well preserved with a Chinese and Japanese style. Hoi An has 1,107 timber frame, and wooden or brick buildings. The buildings are repaired when needed, but never replaced by concrete or cement. There are preserved architectural monuments, religious buildings, open markets, and a ferry. The original street plan of this town remains and a wooden Japanese bridge from the 18th century exists. Today, Hoi An is still a trading port town and a commercial center.
The town’s population consists of about 90,265 people over the land of 6,171 hectares. There is a population growth rate of about 1.36 per year. This ancient city gets a high number of tourists, that visit with the average stay of 4.2 nights for international tourists. In 2010, tourism, commerce, and services represented 59.7% of economic growth in Hoi An. Between 2003-2010, the visitor growth was 21% per year. Tourism drives this city’s economy and many livelihoods are dependent on it. There are a variety of activities to do in Hoi An, with about 800 preserved ancient homes dated back to the 16th and 17th century that visitors can explore. Because of these buildings, Hoi An was recognized as a World Heritage Site.
In many ways, this town is affected by the changes in the climate. In the past 50 years along the coastline, Vietnam’s sea levels have risen about 20cm. Hoi An often experiences flooding but has worsen due to the increase in storm surges. Some effects of these storm surges are: local landslides, high winds, flash flooding, and coastal flooding. In 1998 waters reached 2.99 meters above sea level; and in 1999 waters reached 3.21 meters above sea level.
The damages that climate change is having on the town of Hoi An, Vietnam is not only affecting the locals, but also the number of tourists that visit. Even though there was a gradual increase from 3002-2010, there was a decline in visitation in the coastal regions in 2015 due to beach erosion. The high waters and damaging winds can often create damage to the historical buildings within the town. The beach erosion can cause a negative impact on resort attractiveness, room rates, and property values for the town.
The decrease in visitation can affect Hoi An’s economy. The highest cost for a whole trip for the tourist visiting this town is about $395.8 US. This is huge for the economy! If the tourist counts decreases, then there will be a large correlation in a decrease of the town’s economy. Interviews with officers of a resort that is affected by beach erosion stated that there was a 70% decline in visitation in 2014.
The biggest issue for Hoi An is the danger that the residents are in when climate changes worsen. On November 4, 2017, Typhoon Damrey hit the town. Many were killed during the landslides and when a ship capsized. Rescue teams reported 89 people dead, 174 injured, and 18 missing. The Thu Bon River overflowed and flooded the streets. This was the 12th major storm of the year. A drone captured the footage of the streets under water. An owner of a local restaurant that was flood for four days said:
“The damage for us is that there were many tourists who came but we could not serve them.”
-Nguyen Thi Uyen
There is still a wait on long term solutions to occur to protect against climate change. For now, provincial governments, private-sector businesses and communities are adapting. An example of a public-sector solution is the construction of the dike that helps protect the areas that are in danger of high damage of road erosion. This is a costly project of about $5.5 million US. An officer of Hoi An City’s People’s Committee commented:
“The embankment is one of the city’s seven projects in the fight against climate change. We will also dredge rivers and upgrade roads.” (May 2015)
Some implements that the people and businesses are providing are pillars and sandbags to prevent wave damages. A $357,000 US investment of Nipa palm forest is expected to be planted along the Thu Bon River to protect the town from sea erosion to reduce sand drift on the beach. Many communities are attempting to provide coastal forests to prevent coastal and riverbank erosion and the application of crop rotation help salinity.
Three major issues with administration for Hoi An’s adaption to climate change:
- Lack of consistency and the coordination needed between the Climate Change Response Action Plan and the City Master Plan as the plans are being prepared separately with different objectives between the teams.
- There are gaps of knowledge and skill for the strategic urban planning among the local planners.
- The local governments have no mechanisms for increasing budgets of activities that impact the cause of climate change.
Are the plans really going to protect the whole town of Hoi An, Vietnam before there are long term solutions set in play? Also, these are some pricey ideas to save this town. Will these issues listed above be fixed? Locals are trying their best to prevent damages from occurring, but is the rest of the world giving the same amount of effort? That is a question as individuals that we could ask ourselves.