Better urban infrastructure can make cities not only more livable, but directly contribute to inclusive growth. In Vietnam, a small company located in an alleyway knows that firsthand. Thanh Loi, a family business selling chili sauce, spicy condiments and bottled syrup was able to double its revenue after urban upgrading expanded the alley to allow for cars.
With the company’s main location in an alley, it could only use motorbikes to move goods and materials, a major obstacle to growing the business. After the alley was upgraded through a World Bank-financed project, trucks could finally drive through for pick-up and delivery, allowing Thanh Loi to double its production capacity.
When a World Bank team first pitched the idea of doing a large-scale urban upgrading project in Ho Chi Minh City in 2003, there was a lot of skepticism. Many had already tried to – municipal authorities and NGOs alike – with limited success.
Sixteen years later, the impact of this project is felt well beyond Ho Chi Minh City. The pioneering Vietnam Urban Upgrading Project, completed in 2014, helped improve quality of life for millions of poor urban dwellers in three additional cities – Nam Dinh, Can Tho, and Hai Phong. The recently completed Mekong Delta Region Urban Upgrading Project (MDRUUP) delivered similar results on six secondary cities in the Mekong Delta. Inspired by these two successful predecessors, the ongoing Vietnam Scaling Up Urban Upgrading Project is working to address infrastructure gaps such as roads, drainages, sewer, electricity, fire protection within alleys – for low-income communities in seven more delta cities.
MDRUUP upgraded more than 260 kilometers of alleys and 480 kilometers of drains in low-income, low-lying neighborhoods, improving the quality of life for 625,000 beneficiaries. Another two million people indirectly benefited from the city-wide infrastructure improvements and new social facilities. At project completion, 99.4% of households in low-income areas were connected to water supply systems and 97.9% of households had their domestic waste collected daily. Before, an average of 21.4% of households did not have access to clean water and 23.9% of households had no solid waste collection service.
Two factors were key to the successful implementation of both projects. “We took community participation seriously. We would not move forward with a course of action unless we acquired approval from at least 60 percent of residents. Based on such discussions, we drew up the communities’ upgrading plans – also known as the project’s ‘manifesto' " says Hoang Thi Hoa, Senior Urban Development Specialist at the World Bank in Vietnam.