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Hà Nội, a Metropolis in the Making

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Sylvie Fanchette

Part One. A city woven from water and villages

A city woven from water and villages

Texte intégral

1A deltaic city, Hà Nội shares its aquatic nature with most of the other Southeast Asian capitals and with its neighbour Canton (Guangzhou). In many instances, these cities were erected on sites protected from river flooding (levees or raised construction), as for Phnom Penh, built several metres above the plain, or on alluvial terrace as in the case of Sai Gon (Pierdet, 2012). Since its foundation, Hà Nội has been protected from Red River flooding by high dykes and the rivers that pass through the city, like the Tô Lịch River, have also been the objects of similar protective measures. In contrast, the other major cities in the region, built alongside less dangerous rivers, have not been equipped to such a degree with protection from flooding. Canals were opened up in Bangkok to drain urbanised land and enable communication with the new urban areas; for protection from the Mekong in spate, Phnom Penh was surrounded by dykes on a polder; while Jakarta, founded by the Dutch in the 17th century, benefitted from the colonial civil service’s hydraulic know-how, which drained and dug a dense network of canals to clean up and improve this low-lying and regularly flooded port site.

2The spread of these cities over their low-lying fringes poses two main problems that we will address in this section: firstly, their outskirts are dotted with a dense hydraulic network destined for growing rice. This poses the problem of revising the hydraulic system with the change in use from agricultural land to building plots: polders must be created that are closed offwith dykes and dried out with a complete drainage system made up of canals, sluices and pumping stations. In addition, the villages over which these cities spread, like Jakarta’s kampong, and particularly like those around Hà Nội, are very densely populated. The change in use of land intensively farmed for rice concerns a very large population that must switch to a fresh activity or at the very least find supplementary income to compensate for the loss of agricultural land.

3The integration of villages into Hà Nội City has taken place according to various different patterns throughout its history, depending on the state development policy in force, the town planning model upon which it was based, the economic activities of the villages in question and the dynamism of the local authorities present. As much interpersonal and economic as territorial, it has fostered the urbanisation of village economies and a ruralisation of the city by discouraging the migration of village populations. Through the Old Quarter of 36 Streets and Corporations in the Vietnamese capital, itself originally founded on a substrate of villages, craftsmen’s and tradesmen’s villages in outlying communes have been integrated into the market economy. This formed part of the wider sphere of international trade, particularly within Asia. For several centuries, not without its ups and downs, this district has functioned in step with the rhythm of production in the villages. In exchange, it has launched them onto the international market.

4Since 1995, 148 villages have been integrated into the city’s fringes by changing the status of rural districts into urban districts. Paddy fields have been progressively eaten away by village expansion, but above all by the establishment of residential and industrial projects, without these being accompanied by drainage infrastructure or the installation of wastewater disposal systems. The liberalisation of land market and anarchic construction of housing, shops and factories, some without permits, marked the individualisation of building practices in a context requiring a concerted use of land and the hydraulic system.

5The scale of metropolitan projects for the two coming decades, the expansion of the capital province over neighbouring Hà Tây Province and the construction of satellite towns and very dense peri-urban areas all call for a revision of the means of control over construction on agricultural land and for the installation of hydraulic infrastructure in keeping with the municipality’s ambitions in terms of urban planning.

© IRD Éditions, 2016

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