The stark warning was issued by Tran Thi Lan Anh, deputy head of the Urban Development Agency under the construction ministry, at a conference on Integrative Urban Development towards green and resilient cities in Viet Nam on Thursday.
Anh said urbanisation had developed rapidly in Viet Nam over the past two decades and the country would face challenges to its infrastructure, environment and booming city populations.
"Urbanisation has quickly increased from 550 urban areas to 770 in the last 20 years. These areas are home to 33.5 per cent of the population, with the figure certain to increase over the next few years," Anh said.
"Rapid urbanisation poses a series of problems for areas including housing, traffic, infrastructure, urban space, waste, ecological imbalance and over-exploitation of natural resources," she said.
The deputy head added that the strain placed on housing and traffic congestion was of particular concern.
With over 3,200km of coast line, Viet Nam is highly vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels. Central coastal cities from Quang Binh to Khanh Hoa were at risk of floods, storms and whirlwinds as they were situated near to estuaries.
"Soil salinity has eroded in some areas, causing a serious deficiency of fresh water for crops and local people in coastal cities and towns," Nguyen Hong Tien, an expert from the construction ministry's Agency for Technology Infrastructure told the conference.
He said Viet Nam's government viewed green development as key to solving climate change problems, as evidenced by last year's approval of the national strategy on green growth.
"A series of issues surrounding environmental protection, greenhouse gas emissions and natural conservation were targeted," he said, adding that the strategy eyed green urban planning, urban flood management and sustainable development.
According to Tien, the German government had helped Viet Nam with several waste water programmes and solid waste management in nine provinces and cities between 2005-17, as well as flood proofing plus drainage for medium-sized coastal cities and the Cuu Long (Mekong) delta.
Viet Nam has some of the greatest potential for urbanisation over the coming decade of any Asian country. Annual urban growth of 1.1 million people means capacity building is urgently needed," said chief technical advisor of the German Development Co-operation (GIZ) Erik Schweikhardt.
"Last week, typhoon Nari, which swept over Da Nang and neighbouring provinces, was a stark reminder of how the increase in extreme weather events not only poses a threat to business and financial activities in our urban centres, but also destroys many enterprises," Erik said.
"A resilient city is one that has built the necessary capacity to absorb future shocks and strains on its social, economic, and technical infrastructure system," he said.
He said GIZ had turned its attention to the sustainable development of urban areas, adding that it had also developed environmentally and climate-friendly urban development in Da Nang.
"We are helping to draw up a resilient, green urban development agenda in Viet Nam. The experience we have gained in Da Nang is part of a sectoral approach to the sustainable development of urban areas and regions."
Da Nang has been the first city in Viet Nam to benefit from a US$272.1 million sustainable development project funded by the World Bank. — VNS