by Michael Digregorio, Nguyen Tri Thanh and Le Quang Trung
The Vietnam City Resilience Index began as an attempt to test whether the City Resilience Framework (CRF) developed by Arup International Development could be used to create a comparative national city resilience index. Through its combination of analytical approaches, the VNCRI has proven itself to be a useful tool for monitoring city resilience which, because it is a comparative index, also provides incentive to improvement through competition between cities for higher rankings.
The project was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, which has a decade-long interest in developing methods to monitor and improve city resilience, but was made possible by Decision 2623 of the Prime Minister on Urban Climate Adaptation. Under Decision 2623, the Urban Development Agency under Vietnam's Ministry of Construction, was tasked with developing a database on urban climate adaptation. By nature of the implementing agency, this database would need to focus on issues related to construction and planning in the public domain. Thus, not only would the project need to adapt the CRF for use as a national, comparative index, it would also need to do so with a focus on the data collection needs of the Urban Development Agency.
In the initial design phase, the core group composed of staff from The Asia Foundation (TAF), the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET) and the Urban Development Agency (UDA) focused on three levels of assessment using the CRF's four dimensions, 12 goals, and 52 indicators as guide. Quantitative variables would serve as proxies for relevant indicators. Qualitative scenarios would use a 1-10 scale to rate each city's performance in meeting the objectives of these same indicators. Given the particular needs of the UDA, some of the Arup indicators would be assessed using spatial criteria. Finally, a vulnerability assessment that used a mapping exercise to rate the frequency and impact of natural disasters would be used to assess risk levels.
Each of these elements of the index was developed, refined and tested during the pilot phase of the project. Five cities in different regions of the country were included in the pilot phase. Arup's City Resilience Index (CRI) was published as project teams were developing the VNCRI through the pilot phase of the project. While their goals and approaches differ substantially, the CRI's 156 quantitative and 156 qualitative metrics became an important reference source for development of the VNCRI's metrics.
An additional 28 cities and towns were included in the VNCRI's rollout. The results of this process of data collection and analysis are the subject of this report. While response rates varied, enough data was provided by 20 cities and towns to provide useful analysis. One of the insights of this project is that differences in scores for the 12 quantitative and qualitative goals can serve as a catalyst for understanding the contexts of resilience capacity at the city level. At the first level, this involves examining the indicators and variables that make up the score for each goal. This combination of factors provides the first hint in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each city. Second, contextual evidence can often be found in online news sources that describe recent natural disasters, infrastructure investments, economic and demographic transitions, and other factors that might influence the quantitative or qualitative score for each goal. Finally, GOOGLE Earth offers a means of examining physical changes in the city over time. This may include physical growth, densification, construction of gated communities, beach resorts, new roads, nearby hydroelectric dams, and many other physical features that affect the city's resilience capacity. All three of these approaches combine to add nuance to the observed differences between qualitative and quantitative goal scores and their overall averages.
Using these methods, this proof of concept report offers first, a general assessment based on the average quantitative and qualitative scores for each of the 12 CRF goals. It then examines two particular cases, Son La, which had relatively low scores, and Thai Binh, which had relatively high scores. Finally, it ranks each city based on the 12 CRF goals and examines both high- and low-ranking cities. City snapshots, which compare each city's goal scores to the overall averages, are included in an appendix. We have chosen not to provide an overall ranking of cities in deference to the wide variations in city contexts. These variations can give some cities natural advantages over others in terms of physical geography, climate or economic opportunities. Thus said, the particular rankings by goals offer a substantial means of comparing the factors that make some cities more resilient than others, while the indicators that make up these scores offer a useful means of monitoring resilience capacity.