Urban upgrading in Ho Chi Minh City : unexpected social impact of an infrastructure project Reflection Paper n°002 - January 2014 | | Enabel's knowledge building series
Between 1998 and 2006 Belgium carried out a 20 million euros sanitation project to address the environmental, housing and social challenges along the Tan Hoa Lo Gom (THLG) canal, the most polluted of Ho Chi Minh City's five main canals. In 2012, the project site was revisited by an expert of the Royal Tropical Institute of Amsterdam (KIT) to independently evaluate the longer-term impact.
The Tan Hoa Lo Gom canal sanitation project was innovative: instead of investing in one infrastructure component spread out over the entire city, it focused on different components in a limited area. For the first time in Vietnam, a social housing project developed a mechanism to finance the operation and maintenance of the buildings in a sustainable way. Capacity development and institutional strengthening are valuable concepts that are worth pursuing through Official Development Assistance, even if short-term results are not always tangible. An 'infrastructure' project can have a wide, unexpected impact. The resettlement programme allowed people to progress from being slum dwellers with virtually no legal status to official home-owning residents.