Vulnerability assessments have suggested that many coastal cities are prone to the impacts of flooding induced by sea level rise. This paper aims to understand the dynamics of flood adaptation in Ho Chi Minh City, which has been dealing with such issues for years due to its topography and ongoing urbanization-induced land subsidence. The results suggest that adaptation is reactive to the flooding – creating inconvenience to people's lives and focusing on a hard measures approach. Despite the high exposure to increased risks in the future, a large proportion of the population surveyed is unaware of sea-level rise and land subsidence in the area. Social conflicts regarding the interaction between formal and informal adaptation suggest the decoupling of the process at different levels and a lack of communication between the government and local communities. This case study, showing examples of reactive and decoupled formal and informal adaptation, can provide insights and lessons for vulnerable coastal cities elsewhere on the planet on how to adapt to sea level rise.
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