Monday, May 26, 2008

Living with floods in the Mekong River delta

Just a few segments from a long article in the Bangkok Post about Vietnam’s response to flooding:….Income generation is part of a major programme introduced by the Vietnamese government in the late 1990s to enable people living in the delta to adapt to and benefit from flooding. Called "Living with Floods," the programme involved four main components.

Firstly, residential clusters were built along dykes and roads so that no more evacuation of people was needed during the flood season. Secondly, low-interest loans were given to poor people to heighten the foundations of their houses, or to build new houses on stilts to mitigate the impact of floods. Thirdly, large canals were dug to enhance flood release capacity of the river system. Fourthly, the crop calendar was shifted to allow rice farmers to harvest the summer crop before the arrival of the floods in August.

In addition to these measures, each province also introduced flood-based farming practices to improve farmers' livelihoods during the flood season. "Farmers can now grow three rice crops in the flooded areas. They also raise prawns, fish and eels in paddy fields, ponds and net cages to earn extra income," explained Kien. "In 2005, 406,937 flood-related jobs were created in the delta."

…With more than 3,000 kilometres of coastline - 700 kilometres of it in the MRD alone - Vietnam is also vulnerable to sea level rise due to climate change. A World Bank study projects that Vietnam will be one of the five most affected countries in the world. Under the most extreme scenarios, it warns that the entire southern tip of Vietnam, an area of about 40,000 square kilometres, could be inundated.

Local officials are concerned. "Flood-related disasters will increase if no preventive measures are taken," said Ms Nguyen Thi Phuc Hoa from the coastal city of Hue. "In Vietnam, sea levels have increased an average of 1-2 mm a year." … According to Ms Hoa, the Vietnamese government has already developed disaster preparedness in vulnerable communes, districts and provinces. The Central Committee for Flood and Storm Control, or CCFSC, has been set up to deal specifically with this matter. "….

The Mekong Delta from space, NASA, Wikimedia Commons

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