In a serendipitous moment, while looking for food in Hue, we happened upon a SAUNAC seminar. “Welcome to SAUNAC, Hue a model city for sustainability.” I wandered in and looked around. I marveled for one moment at the odds of us being in the same place at the same time as this seminar and me walking by it. Alyssa, Kylie, and Sharleen, curious about where I disappeared to, backtracked and found me walking around the lobby looking at poster boards about solid waste sorting, climate change, and action steps of various stakeholder members.
SAUNAC (Sustainability Alliance of Urban Networks in Asian Cities) is a initiative to introduce Sustainable Development principles into Environmental and Civil Engineering courses throughout Asia. With massive amounts of Vietnamese moving from a rural to urban lifestyle, sustainable urban development is a key challenge for Vietnam. 25% of Vietnamese lived in an urban setting in 1996 while 45% of Vietnamese will be living in an urban setting in 2020. In this particular seminar we had the pleasure of meeting the project director Henna. She told us about some of the initiatives and in later correspondence connected us with Hieu from Hue University
For the past two years they have been doing amazing working developing curriculum, majors, and augmenting the focus and minds of young people at many of the prestigious universities in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang, and Hue. The best and the brightest the Universities develop, are turning their attention to Climate Change and how to reform their city’s practices and development for a changing world.
In 2016 World Wildlife Fund, as part of the highly selective global One Planet City Challenge, celebrating the environmentally friendly policies and initiatives, Hue was recognized as the first city in Vietnam to be amongst the vanguard of sustainable development. (Full report here) It has been three years since, and I contacted Bao Thai Minh to determine what progress Hue has made. Here are some of the highlights of their accomplishments:
- The addition of three walking streets only as well as 27 tourist routes operated by electric shuttle.
- Hue city entered a Free Wildlife city action plan. The local government (Forest Protection Department) of Hue and its achievement in wildlife protection has been recognized as the best of Vietnam in 2018, following an assessment by ENV, a well-known NGO in Vietnam.
- Nearly 100% new roads installed with LED technology and/or high energy
efficient ones (according to DOIT); many of new roads have been lined with trees.
- Most of hotel and tourist services that use much hot water, has been
installed with solar water heating systems; and a number of private
buildings have begun installing solar rooftop systems which connect to the grid
(called net-metering) without using batteries (this is a community action).
- Hue has built a large scale system for waste water collection and treatment
with the investment of 4,200 billion VND (about $180 million), nearly completed,
that expected to cover 70% of waste water of the South area of Hue city
(Southern area of Huong river)
- Since the beginning of 2019, Hue city authority has called for a movement
on Green Sunday that has been responded widely covering not only Hue city
but also reaching out to the whole Thua Thien Hue province. Making the city
Greener-Cleaner & Brighter is the key topic of this movement, called by the
new president of Hue with a strong message for a non-plastic waste Hue. The
inspiring message and strong action are impacted on multi stakeholders from
high to lower levels with the participation of Youth Union, Women Union,
teachers, pupils/students, private companies (specifically tourist,
commercial and service ones). Local government leaders have been also repeatedly
committed to playing a role as pioneers in action. A series of other
actions of local government and communities are: action
against the plastic water bottle and other one-time using products applied
for all government agencies; ‘Green creative contest 2019’; the Green Huong
river project; the Four-season Flowers project.
- In 2019, the city launched a Smart/Intelligent Urban operating Center with
2 websites and 1 app. where people can report problems, concerns in
environment, security, urban infrastructure, etc (10 fields of information)
to local government. Information to be clarified, addressing field sites and
reported to sender quickly. This system has been awarded as the best Asian
smart urban operating system recently.
Outstanding progress. Is Hue “there” yet? No, but neither are cities in the West. The point is that there has been lots of positive momentum in the right direction. When city leaders and private organizations partner with community action a lot can be accomplished!