City of Toulouse (France) – City of Hanoi (Vietnam): rethinking urban development to adapt to climate issues

Vietnam is among the five world countries most vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. Its capital, Hanoi, has been identified as one of the world’s six most polluted cities (source: UNEP – 2007). After a very rapid transition from widespread use of bicycles to that of motorized two-wheelers (80 % of journeys in 2006), Hanoi now faces a second revolution in travel habits, with an influx of automobiles (+21% of registrations per year), worsening the public health situation.

Above and beyond the issue of air quality, these developments could very soon cause a break-down in the structure of a city largely made up of a cluster of village centres, and in the traditional lifestyles of the people of Hanoi, organized around small spaces and low-rise homes not compatible with the generalization of personal cars.

In this context, the cities of Toulouse and Hanoi are working together to implement public policies for mobility addressing the challenge of adapting to climate change through reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption.

We met Nguyen Duc Hung, architect and deputy managing director of the Hanoi Urban Planning Institute, during the round table “Local governments commit to climate action,” held on 5 December as part of COP21 in Le Bourget.

Hanoi and Toulouse have been cooperating since 1996 in the protection and promotion of the old centre of Hanoi, and remain deeply committed to this cooperation initiated by Dominique Baudis (Mayor of Toulouse from 1983 to 2001). This relationship of friendship has only strengthened with the expansion of exchanges in the cultural, economic and sustainable urban development fields.

The issue of sustainable urban development was taken into account from 2012, with the development of the urban area along the “Ton Duc Thang – Nguyen – Trai” axis, taking into account the lifestyles, behaviours and needs of inhabitants in the process of the city’s development.

A new partnership agreement was signed in 2014, during the cultural week of Hanoi in Toulouse organised under the “Vietnam-France Year”, demonstrating the will to continue this commitment.

From the outset, this cooperation has incorporated several innovative aspects with benefits for both cities:

  • an extended partnership from the beginning of the project: major structures are involved in this cooperation, including institutions, universities, associations and technical and cultural stakeholders;
  • citizen participation: the project is defined and implemented in an inclusive manner, where residents are taken into particular account;
  • major involvement of the relevant municipal services.

Under the new project, the aim is both to hold a common reflection on the means of transport used in the old centre, known as the “36 streets”, and in particular the establishment of a traffic plan diverting transit flows and defining principles for sharing of public spaces (continuity of pedestrian walkways, squares, landscaping, day and night commercial activities, etc.), and to continue development of the urban area along the “Ton Duc Thang – Nguyen – Trai” axis, incorporating clean public transport that clearly prioritizes the sharing of public space at the expense of the personal car.

On 5 December 2015, Nguyen Duc Hung, architect and deputy managing director of the Hanoi Urban Planning Institute, answered our questions live from COP21, where the project had just been raised during the round table: “Local governments commit to climate action”.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development (MAEDI): Could you briefly remind us of the goals of the project?

Nguyen Duc Hung: The proposed project seeks to implement public policies for mobility addressing the challenge of adapting to climate change through reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption. All the actions aim to create and improve public spaces. In concrete terms, that means reducing flows of traffic powered by fossil fuels and incorporating efforts for planting neighbourhoods in the fast-evolving “36 Streets” district, while continuing to develop the urban area along the “Ton Duc Thang – Nguyen – Trai” axis – 30 km long – and improving water management, amongst other things.

Why did you choose the angle of sustainable mobility?

It is when we went directly to Toulouse that we decided to work together for this initiative. Hanoi City Hall has always supported our cooperation, but sometimes political choices can be complicated. The catalyst was when we saw what a sustainable mobility policy can achieve for a large city.

Moreover, this choice was made with Mr Ionesco (architect and co-promoter of the project) for a long-term action. It combines transport policy and development policy at different horizons. This comprehensive approach to sustainable mobility aims to ensure an optimisation of the proposed systems and consistency in their location, so as to benefit the public interest (population served, health, environment, quality of life). Management and exploitation of the resulting spaces and systems will be the responsibility of local stakeholders.

Could you tell us more about the academic partnership that has been set up?

This partnership addresses the need for cross-cutting training that needed to be set up for the implementation of our actions at the level of local people, as well as on the area we are developing, so as to avoid the errors of the past such as inappropriate development that is polluting and consumes fossil fuels. Universities offer new ideas which we must be able to exploit. That is why we have decided to involve Hanoi Architectural University and the École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Toulouse (ENSAT, national school of architecture of Toulouse). Knowledge-sharing helps increase the level of expertise and respond appropriately to the objectives we have set ourselves. The partnership had been in place since 1996 and we needed to extend our collaboration to those around us.

How do you want to follow up this project?

The aim is to change Hanoi’s image. Hanoi suffers from the reputation of an overcrowded, dirty capital. Our partnership with Toulouse is helping us to change this reputation. It is with that aim that we started work and that we will continue it in the coming years.

Illust: Nguyen Duc Hung (...), 250.3 kb, 1273x955
Nguyen Duc Hung (2ⁿᵈ from the left), architect and deputy managing director of the Hanoi Urban Planning Institute, and Jérôme Ionesco (right), architect and head of projects and urban forms at the Toulouse area urban planning agency. Photo: all right reserved

Nguyen Duc Hung (2ème en partant de la gauche), architecte et directeur général adjoint de l’Institut de la Planification urbaine d’Hanoi et Jérôme Ionesco (à droite), architecte et responsable des Projets et Formes Urbaines à l’Agence d’Urbanisme de l’aire urbaine de Toulouse. Photo : DR

Stakeholders:

  • City of Toulouse
  • City of Hanoi
  • Hanoi Urban Planning Institute
  • Urban development agency of the metropolitan area of Toulouse
  • École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Toulouse (ENSAT, national school of architecture of Toulouse)
  • Toulouse-le-Mirail University
  • Hanoi Architectural University
  • Civil society, including the Maison du Vietnam and Tchin-Tchine associations, Vietnamese students, and the France-Vietnam friendship association.

This project was selected under the 2015 climate call for projects launched by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development (MAEDI), in partnership with the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy (MEDDE) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Agri-food and Forestry (MAAF), as well as the Schneider Electric Foundation, under the auspices of the Fondation de France.

More information in the section on external action of local governments of France Diplomatie (in French).

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