A Path to Sustainable Urban Development

Parks and historical sites in Viet Nam are major tourist draw cards but need careful management and protection. Photo credit: ADB.

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Hue City in Viet Nam rolled out an action plan for urban development that targets environmental protection, improved livability, and new economic opportunities.


Making cities environmentally sustainable, livable, and economically viable is one of the great challenges of our times.

Hue City in Viet Nam aspires to become a world-class tourist destination and to increase tourist numbers from current levels of over 2 million a year, with the bulk of visitors drawn to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Citadel and Imperial City sites.

These sites need significant rehabilitation and improved linkages to maximize their potential, while the city itself suffers from poor water quality, air pollution, and flooding during rainy months. The urban sewerage network covers only about 30% of the population, while Hue City also lacks a safe hazardous waste disposal site, and needs to expand its limited water treatment plants.

The city authorities believe tourism can drive the development of services such as lodging; food and beverage; culture and entertainment; and handicrafts; and in combination with health care and education can grow and strengthen the services sector overall. Services, not manufacturing, is seen as the economic base of the future Thua Thien Hue city.

In response to these challenges, Hue City has adopted a new GrEEEn cities approach to urban planning and development that brings together measures to protect and sustain the environment, ensure the livability of the city, and to generate new economic opportunities.

An action plan based on the GrEEEn cities three “Es” formula (environment, economy and equity) has now been drawn up with technical assistance support from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). It lays out step-by-step measures to achieve Hue’s sustainable urban development goals.

Key Findings

The GrEEEn Cities Action Plan outlines three key initiatives to achieve the following goals:

  • urban environment improvements;
  • enhancing the tourism experience; and
  • developing sustainable transport solutions.

To improve the urban environment, the plan details the following measures:

  • Creation of a sanitation credit scheme for low-income households to help them cope with the costs of constructing toilets, septic tanks or latrines, and for connecting to the piped wastewater network.
  • Development of stormwater, wastewater and solid waste treatment facilities, complemented by a community awareness program.
  • Resettlement program for informal settlers (700 households) living along the walls of the citadel.
  • Establish public-private partnerships to develop “green” districts with standards set for energy efficiency and water conservation.

To strengthen the tourism experience:

  • Revise and improve the regulatory framework for the protection and development of the citadel.

To improve and develop sustainable transport services:

  • Public transport companies will be encouraged to develop low impact tram services to and from the city center and to “green” districts.

To successfully implement the measures, the action plan highlights the need for:

  • strong partnerships and inputs from stakeholders at all levels;
  • strengthening local government capacity for strategic planning and the rollout of agreed measures; and
  • development of a performance monitoring and evaluation framework including a citizen’s community scorecard for rating service providers.

The plan sees the following outcomes/results:

  • Strengthened and increased tourism, increased job opportunities, and improved real property values.

The action plan is designed to be scalable; flexible and equitable; and ensures that the cumulative benefits for the city are far greater than the benefits of each single action.


Asian Development Bank. 2014. Hue GrEEEn City Action Plan. Manila.


Sonia Chand Sandhu
Principal Evaluation Specialist, Independent Evaluation Department (IED), Asian Development Bank

Sonia Chand Sandhu, an environmental engineer and climate resilience and sustainability specialist, has over 27 years of international development experience in environmental sustainability, resilience, and integrated institutional solutions for the management of multisector infrastructure operations at ADB, the World Bank (South Asia and Africa), and in the private sector.

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Ramola Naik Singru
Principal Urban Development Specialist, Water and Urban Development Sector Office, Sectors Group, Asian Development Bank

Ramola Naik Singru supports ADB's urban sector development with a focus on integrated development for Livable Cities. She co-led the preparation of the framework for National Urban Assessments and the Inclusive Cities toolkit under ADB's Urban Operational Plan 2012-2020, and co-led ADB's GrEEEn Cities Initiative in Southeast Asia to develop GrEEEn City Action Plans. Ramola is interested in engaging with people to take ownership for shaping their cities, and exploring the interface between urban development, urban-rural linkages, and regional integration.

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