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Seasonal Migration Routes Identification System and Workshops: A New Strategy
Proposal for  Urban adaptation: Climate resilient cities 2013 by  Michaël Houle

Seasonal Migration Routes Identification System and Workshops: A New Strategy


Prepare Vietnamese cities’ housing infrastructures for potential seasonal migrants influx from Cà Mau and Kiên Giang provinces, Vietnam.



Emerging empirical research indicates that climate change currently plays a role in migration pattern (Stephenson al., 2010; Warner 2009, 2010). The Seasonal Migration Routes Identification System (SMRIS) will predict the evolution of seasonal migratory routes in function of increasing vulnerability to floods faced by rural and urban population in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. The resulting information will be used to identify the potential numbers of environmental seasonal migrants and ensure that host cities or villages are being prepared to absorb drastic temporary demographic changes. The SMRIS will serve city government and urban planners by providing the necessary information to predict cities’ influx or outflow of seasonal migrants and take actions to ensure temporary housing availability and accessibility. Current and future cities of Vietnam facing seasonal population growth will be invited to participate in a regional participatory workshop where structural and functional vulnerability of their housing infrastructures, and solutions to increase their absorption capacity will be identified.

Floods that occur slowly and are part of a natural annual cycle provide an opportunity to test, develop, and implement new migration management strategies in the context of rapid global climate change. This project also offers the possibility of addressing sea level rise (SLR) and flood issues in a long-term development perspective. Strengthening of dyke systems, flood diversion solutions, and forest protection have long been the main adaptation strategies to mitigate climate change in Vietnam. This project proposal goes beyond these palliative measures to rethink the materiality of current adaptation strategies characterized by the control of nature and climate change via the built environment. It is time to erase borders between what are too often conceived as closed communities of settled citizens and support a flexible, integrated migratory lifestyle (Dorent 2011).

Category of the action

Urban adaptation

What actions do you propose?

This project requires to work simultaneously in a socio-engineering and urban planning perspective. An intra-regional migration management system addressing migrant’s need and migration patterns in face of SLR and floods need to be inclusive and comprehensive to prevent coordination gaps between the arrival of evacuees and the provision of housing infrastructures. Environmentally motivated migrants will likely need support for integration, establishing livelihoods in new areas, accessing urban services and be protected from any discriminatory practices or policies. *Please note that the name of the Mekong Delta will be used, but that only the southern provinces of Cà Mau and Kiên Giang are considered.

1. Institutional diagnosis: analysis of current governmental policies and regulations that help or hinder seasonal migration.

2. Data gathering:

- Climate change vulnerability and risk assessment: The Asian Development Bank financed a research using a standard ‘comparative vulnerability and risk assessment methodology and framework’ for estimating aggregate vulnerability for different  dimensions such as population and poverty. "This approach is based on […] a risk-based approach for assessing the impacts of natural hazards such as flooding, inundation and sea level rise on human systems" (Mackay 2011, p.5). With the permission of the Asian Development Bank, all the necessary information on climate change vulnerability would be collected. Please refer to the Who will take these actions? section to see other institutions that will be solicited. In the case the information is not accessible, data gathering for the climate change, vulnerability and risk components of the project will start from scratch.

-Migration routes: For data collection about migration patterns, please refer to actions 3 and 4.

3. Individual interviews, surveys, and collective and participatory workshops with rural and urban inhabitants and households of the Mekong Delta having an historic of seasonal migration or living in areas highly threatened by predicted environmental changes.

These activities will allow the identification of social networks and economic conditions influencing the migration trajectories of individuals (Tacoli 2009). It will be the occasion to identify the unmet needs and constraints they face for leaving flooded areas or the unmet needs and constraints they face in the receiving area. The gathered information will be used for the SMRIS and for improving the content of both, the participatory workshop with local population and the professional workshop (details below).

Participatory workshops on "seasonal migration and adaptation strategies" with local population will be hold in many districts. This set of activity will increase Mekong Delta inhabitants’ awareness about the adaptation measures that would need to be undertaken in rural areas so that the need to migrate is stemmed. Decision to undertake seasonal migration is a difficult one, both emotionally and logistically. Participatory workshops will provide individuals with the necessary support and tools to prepare themselves to a prospective need for seasonal migration. Seasonal migration should not be seen as a failure, and individuals should feel supported during their entire migration trajectory. Recommendations on how to facilitate the mobility of individuals, based on the identified constraints or impeding factors they face during their respective trajectories, will figure in the final report (see #7)

4. Discussions as well as open or semi-structured interviews with professionals of urban infrastructures planning and management, land registry, local elected officials, traditional authorities, informal developers, surveyors, local leaders involved in the process of accessing to urban land and housing. The collected information will be used for the institutional diagnosis and the elaboration of the workshop (see #6 for details).

5. Development of a Seasonal Migration Routes Identification System that would enable predictions of seasonal migration patterns in the Mekong Delta in function of areas’ respective vulnerability to flood.

This system will be the beginning of demographic, socio-economic, and environmental data modeling on migration patterns in the Mekong Delta. It will register the evolution of seasonal migratory routes in function of slow-onset environmental changes. Prediction (present to 2070) will identify which cities will be prone to flood and which will face strong demographic pressure from seasonal migration influx or outflow. It will include an evaluation of city/rural areas inter-connections, which would require multi-scale stakeholder dialogues (this software will have to track migrants outside the jurisdiction of the city as well). The SMRIS will be based on a prospective approach. It will infer levels of environmental vulnerability from a priori knowledge of the sources of danger, threat entities and factors aggravating issues (Gleyze 2005, p.56). The database will be easily adjustable to unpredicted climate change impacts, attractiveness of new housing development, urbanization rate, and all other unpredicted factors that could influence short and long-term changes in migration routes or pressures on cities’ housing infrastructures. The main objective is to give the government the necessary information to develop and implement habitation program, to be prepared for migrant influx and/or to promote migration in cities that are more sustainable in the long run.

6. Elaboration of a weeklong inter-regional workshop on "How to integrate the SMRIS into municipal and regional development plan". Participating municipalities are those that will be identified by the SMRIS as being major host cities. Urban planners, professionals involved in the management of housing infrastructure, and local authorities of the same municipality will participate to the workshop. Some activities will be held in closed group (municipal regrouping) and other will consist of open discussions and sharing of experiences between municipalities. This will include participatory activities on: the challenges of seasonal migration on their municipality; their current strategies to address these challenges; what does the adoption of this strategy (or absence) involves and what changes need to come about in the social and political structure for this strategy to work effectively; how to assess the absorption capacity of their housing infrastructures to seasonal migration inflow (failure at the conception level, realization or exploitation level, possible causes and effects of failure, indicators and means of detection), etc. It will be the occasion for the participants to critically assess their position as a professional in the context of the current climate changes and urban planning challenges. The main objective is to define solutions to increase the housing infrastructure absorption capacity of host cities and its accessibility (physical and financial) to rural and urban seasonal migrants.

7. Final report writing for Vietnamese government and sponsors. Policy recommendations will be an important part of this final report. One of the recommendations will be an extension of this project for addressing issues faced by cities with seasonal population outflow.

8. Presentation of the final report to government officials (state, provincial, district and communal level), sponsors, and urban infrastructures managers and planners.

9. Writing of a user guide and training of government officials and urban infrastructures planners on how to integrate the SMRIS into their work (one training for each group of actors).

10. Presentation to conferences on urban planning in Vietnam and other international conferences on climate change with the goal of raising awareness of urban planners and local authorities to environmental migration as being an effective adaptation strategies, and of the potential replicability of the project.

General Objectives:

1. Prevent informal settlement development and mitigate the negative impacts (e.g. increased poverty, unsanitary living environment, health care and diseases, etc.) of urban planning failure to provide seasonal migrants with a temporary access to habitation. Building affordable temporary accommodations in areas where access to other urban infrastructures such as water and waste collection would be available is a basic example of structural enforcement that could counteract informal settlements’ emergence around identified seasonal migration destinations.

2. Prevent regional and national economic instability. The Mekong Delta is home to 18 million people or 22 percent of Vietnam’s population and produces more than a quarter of the country’s GDP, mainly generated by rice production (Warner 2010, p. 406). Permanent migration into major city centers resulting from the incapacity of the government to deal with seasonal migration could have devastating effects on agricultural production. As Perter Marcuse said: "In the real world, the choice between dealing with the causes of a disaster, on the one hand, or on the other hand, accepting them but mitigating their consequences, is a matter of cost-benefit analysis, weighing the costs and benefits of the alternatives against each other"(2013). A cost benefit analysis will be done to demonstrate that the long-term cost of failure to absorb seasonal migrants’ demand for affordable temporary housing is greater than the cost of undertaking the proposed actions.

3. Reduce barriers to communication through sharing information between the various levels of government and the local population. This would ensure a convergence of bottom-up (local) knowledge and interpretation of existing vulnerabilities and migration options with top-down (state, province, district, and communal level) climate-related migration interventions and projections.

4. Identify and analyze current Vietnamese urban planning approaches, strategies and measures to deal with present and projected environmental seasonal migration pattern. This project has the potential to change policy makers’ perceptions on migration as a problem and develop a better understanding of the role of local and national institutions in supporting and accommodating mobility.

5. Formulate policy recommendations to support and guide Vietnamese government in addressing the complex institutional and organizational matters involved in the management of seasonal migration from the Mekong Delta. The recommendations would include information such as: structural (e.g., physical structure) and nonstructural (e.g., operational) options/solutions, how to integrate new comers into existing networks within the city, what kind of housing development and where they should be undertaken, how to undertake the transition from present context requiring emergency response to long term development actions (from reactivity to proactivity), etc.

6. Give rise to alternative urban development model. To date, climate change in the Mekong Delta has contributed to an increase in rural displacement and seasonal mobility to urban centers, notably in Ho Chi Minh City (Adamo 2010, p.161). Sixty-five percent of HCMC territory lies at less than 1,5 meters above sea level, fifty per cent of areas planned for development lies at less than 2 meters above sea level, and sixteen per cent of HCMC is comprised of waterways and surrounding deficient dikes (Tanner et al. 2009, p.23). As demonstrated by the research of Tocali: "Small and intermediate urban centers [should be] an essential component of national policies that aim to achieve a more decentralized pattern of urbanization […] - this is especially important in view of the concentration of large cities in low elevation coastal zones vulnerable to sea level rise" (2009, p.522).

Who will take these actions?

Main stakeholders:

-Government officials from different administrative and territorial structures (state, provincial, district, and communal level). Ministry of Construction and Department of Planning and Investment are important organizations responsible for the elaboration and evaluation of projects.  This project will also get communal level authorities involved because of their close proximity to local populations. Participation of the officials involved in the Socio-economic Development Plan, in thematic planning, and the General Development Plan will be solicited.

-Vietnamese urban planners and housing infrastructures managers (contribution of foreign urban planners is welcome).

With the participation or collaboration of:

-Asian Development Bank (more details in the Related Proposal section).

-Local population and previous native inhabitants of Mekong Delta: seasonal migrants, permanently displaced environmental migrants, inhabitants currently threatened by climate change but staying home during flood events, inhabitants of safe zones that will be prone to flood by 2070.

-Vietnamese and foreign academics specialized in climate change resilience, environment, real estate and land market, urban planning, migration, software engineering, Vietnamese politics, etc.

-NGO representatives working on migration, environment, socio-economic development, social welfare, disaster relief issues, etc.

-Formal and informal housing developers.

-Software engineers.

-The Vietnam Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment (leading research institute in the field of climate change with experience of in-depth research around climate policy, strategy development, climate modeling and future projections and forecasting).

-The Institute of Sociology of the Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences in Hanoi.

-Professionals working for different urban infrastructures such as transportation, water infrastructures, and waste management.

*Multi-scale stakeholder dialogues will be primordial

Where will these actions be taken?

Migration pressures will grow as inhabitants of coastal areas increasingly feel the impacts of climate change. To date, climate change in the Mekong Delta has contributed to an increase in rural displacement and seasonal mobility to urban centers, notably in HCMC (Adamo 2010, p.161). The Mekong Delta is almost entirely below 5 m above sea level, making it one of the 3 most vulnerable deltas in the world to sea level rise. A study by ICEM indicated that about 38% of the delta would be submerged under water if the seawater rises 1 m (Carew-Reid 2007 in Mackay, Russell 2011, p.5). Only the seasonal migratory routes of inhabitants living in the provinces of Cà Mau and Kiên Giang (with their respective capital being Cà Mau and Rạch Giá) will be studied. Cà Mau and Kiên Giang are coastal provinces highly exposed to flood and extreme weather events, and already have an history of flood events. In addition, data availability and the interest of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for this particular area influenced the selection of this site.

Cà Mau province has eight district committees, all of which will be included in this project:

Cái Nước, Đầm DÆ¡i, Năm Căn, Ngọc Hiển, Phú Tân, Thới Bình, Trần Văn Thời, and U Minh.

Kiên Giang province has one town, Hà Tiên, and 13 district committees, all of which will be included in this project:

An Biên, An Minh, Châu Thành, Giang Thành, Giồng Riềng, Gò Quao, Hòn Đất, Kiên Hải, Kiên LÆ°Æ¡ng, Phú Quốc, Tân Hiệp, VÄ©nh Thuận, and U Minh Thượng.

Local authorities and urban planners participating to the workshop can be from any rural area or city in Vietnam, provided that they are identified as a host city by the SMRIS.

What are other key benefits?

This project also has the potential to:

-Increase awareness of inhabitants on seasonal migration adaptation strategy to climate change.

-Promote intra and inter-municipal communication, coordination of sectorial policies, and cooperation between provinces and districts.

-Decrease number of human casualties caused by floods.

-Contribute to Vietnamese government’s organizational resilience.

-Serve professionals working for any other urban infrastructures in the Mekong Delta (SMRIS data).

-Be replicated in other regions or countries hit by slow-onset (yet severe) droughts or floods.

-The workshop has the potential to be turned into an annual consortium on environmental migration and urban adaptation strategies for urban planners, multi-scale government stakeholders, and NGOs.

-Contribute to existing knowledge by increasing the understanding of the link between migration, and structural and functional sustainability of urban infrastructures.

What are the proposal’s costs?

Two-year pilot: US$ 200 000

Depending on available funds, the project could include other provinces of the Mekong Delta hit by severe floods.

Time line

Two-year pilot: Calendar (in months)

-Starting and design: 1st-3rd

Finding sponsors, implementation of a research unit, methodological workshop, development of the monitoring framework, project launch, capacity-building activities.

-Institutional diagnosis: 3rd-7th

-Individual interviews, collective and participatory workshop: 4th-8th

-Interviews with professionals: 5th-10th

-Analysis of data and results: 5th-12th

-Development of a SMRIS: 7th-13th

-Preparation for workshop, workshop: 11th-16th

-Final report writing and revision: 16th-19th

-Result presentations (3): 20th

-Writing of a user guide and training elaboration (2): 13th, 21st-22nd

-Training of government officials and urban networks managers: -23rd

-Conferences: Unknown

Related proposals

This approach is an innovative and promising one. To date, seasonal migration patterns have never been adressed by climate change adaptation projects.

This project will be presented to the ADB who is currently undertaking research and development project in Mekong Delta and Vietnam more broadly. It would be an added value to the organization’s current work and research. Please refer to the links below for more details on the recent Climate Change Impact and Adaptation Strategies in the Cuu Long Delta research, and on the ongoing Urban Environment and Climate Change Adaptation (2012-2014) project.




Adamo, S. B. (2010). "Environmental migration and cities in the context of global environmental change." Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2(3): 161-165.

Asian Development Bank (2012). "Urban Environment and Climate Change Adaptation (2012-2014)", 43237-012,

Dorent, Nathanael (2011). "Transitory Cities: Emergency architecture and the challenge of climate change", Development 54(3), 345–351.

Gleyze, Jean-François (2005). "La vulnérabilité structurelle des réseaux de transport dans un contexte de risques" Thesis, Université de Paris 7: 540.

Jager, J., Fruhmann, J., Gunberger, S., Vag, A. (2009). "Environmental Change and Forced Migration Scenarios Project Synthesis Report".

Mackay, P., and Michael, R. (2011) "Socialist Republic of Viet Nam: Climate Change Impact and Adaptation Study in the Mekong Delta", For Vietnam Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment (IMHEN) and the Kien Giang Peoples Committee - Asian Development Bank.

Marcuse, Peter (2013) "Un-Natural Disasters, Recursive Resilience, Unjust Compensation, Visionless Planning". Perter Marcuse's Blog #34:

MONRE (2008). National Target Program to Respond to Climate Change. Hanoi, Ministry of National Resources and Environment.

Quertamp, F. et al. (2013). "Urbanisme au Viêt-Nam, Outils et méthodes pour la planification et la gestion urbaine." 63.

Stephenson, J., et al. (2010). "Population dynamics and climate change: what are the links?" Journal of Public Health 32(2): 150-156.

Tacoli, C. (2009). "Crisis or adaptation? Migration and climate change in a context of high mobility." Environment and Urbanization 21(2): 513-525.

Tanner, T., T. Mitchell, E. Polack and B. Guenther (2009). "Urban Governance for Adaptation: Assessing Climate Change Resilience in Ten Asian Cities." IDS Working Papers 2009(315): 01-47.

Warner, K., Afifi, T., Dun, O., Stal, M., Schmidl, S., Bogardi, J. (2008). "Human security, climate change, and environmentally induced migration." Climate Change: Addressing the Impact on Human Security. Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) and Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Warner, K., Erhart, C., de Sherbinin, A., Adamo, S.B., Onn, T.C. (2009). "In search of Shelter: Mapping the effects of climate change on human migration and displacement." A policy paper prepared for the 2009 Climate Negotiations. Bonn, Germany: United Nations University, CARE, and CIESIN-Columbia University and in close collaboration with the European Commission ‘‘Environmental Change and Forced Migration Scenarios Project’’, the UNHCR, and the World Bank.

Warner, K. (2010). "Global environmental change and migration: Governance challenges." Global Environmental Change 20(3): 402-413.

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Seasonal Migration Routes Identification System and Workshops: A New Strategy
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By:  Michaël Houle
Contest: Urban adaptation: Climate resilient cities 2013
How can cities become more resilient to the challenges brought on by climate change?