Demand for water is sinking city

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 March, 2005, 12:00am

Nguyen Dang Phuc's home is sinking.

Mr Phuc's ground-floor Hanoi apartment has sagged into the earth about 80cm in the 10 years he has lived there.

Cracks in the walls are growing, the air inside the home is getting muggier, and the ledge of his front window is ominously closer to the pavement outside.

'I hope to buy a new apartment soon,' said Mr Phuc, a labourer.

A new survey has found Vietnam's capital to be sinking steadily in several areas, with Mr Phuc's neighbourhood among the worst affected.

Survey leader Tran Van Hoang told Tuoi Tre newspaper that the city's fast-rising demand for water - reportedly set to increase by 20 per cent this year alone - is drawing down the underground water table, causing surface instability.

The water table is as much as 35m below the ground, compared to three or four metres 40 years ago, the survey found.

Dr Hoang said the result is not just sinking apartment buildings but road damage, drainage problems and worries about the safety of the city's fast-paced new construction.

Dao Xuan Anh, head of Hanoi's construction department, said the study was a timely warning, but the sinking was not a big problem. 'The sinking situation in Shanghai and Bangkok is much worse than in Hanoi,' he said.