Classifying and mapping the urban transition in Vietnam

Saksena, Sumeet; Fox, Jefferson; Epprecht, Michael; Tran, Chinh; Castrence, Miguel; Nong, Duong; Spencer, James; Nguyen, Lam; Finucane, Melissa; Vien, Tran Duc; Wilcox, Bruce (2014). Classifying and mapping the urban transition in Vietnam. Applied geography, 50, pp. 80-89. Elsevier 10.1016/j.apgeog.2014.02.010

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The urban transition almost always involves wrenching social adjustment as small agricultural communities are forced to adjust rapidly to industrial ways of life. Large-scale in-migration of young people, usually from poor regions, creates enormous demand and expectations for community and social services. One immediate problem planners face in approaching this challenge is how to define, differentiate, and map what is rural, urban, and transitional (i.e., peri-urban). This project established an urban classification for Vietnam by using national census and remote sensing data to identify and map the smallest administrative units for which data are collected as rural, peri-urban, urban, or urban core. We used both natural and human factors in the quantitative model: income from agriculture, land under agriculture and forests, houses with modern sanitation, and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index. Model results suggest that in 2006, 71% of Vietnam's 10,891 communes were rural, 18% peri-urban, 3% urban, and 4% urban core. Of the communes our model classified as peri-urban, 61% were classified by the Vietnamese government as rural. More than 7% of Vietnam's land area can be classified as peri-urban and approximately 13% of its population (more than 11 million people) lives in peri-urban areas. We identified and mapped three types of peri-urban places: communes in the periphery of large towns and cities; communes along highways; and communes associated with provincial administration or home to industrial, energy, or natural resources projects (e.g., mining). We validated this classification based on ground observations, analyses of multi-temporal night-time lights data, and an examination of road networks. The model provides a method for rapidly assessing the rural–urban nature of places to assist planners in identifying rural areas undergoing rapid change with accompanying needs for investments in building, sanitation, road infrastructure, and government institutions.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)

UniBE Contributor:

Epprecht, Michael








Stephan Schmidt

Date Deposited:

19 Mar 2015 13:49

Last Modified:

22 Oct 2015 09:45

Publisher DOI:





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