Friday, May 20, 2011

Sea-level rise could 'displace millions' in Vietnam

IRIN adds to the drumbeat of stories about Vietnam’s vulnerability to sea level rise and other impacts: For centuries, residents around Can Tho, a city of 1.1m people in southern Vietnam, just 0.8m above sea level, have depended on flood cycles to grow crops. However, experts warn there is a possibility that sea levels will rise in the delta region around Can Tho due to climate change, causing devastating floods that will displace millions and destroy those crops.

Can Tho is in the wider Mekong Delta, a rice-growing region that spans southern Vietnam and is home to 18 million people. More than half of Vietnam's rice is produced in the delta, as well as 60 percent of its fish and shrimp.

A 1m sea-level rise could displace more than seven million residents of the Mekong delta, and a 2m sea-level rise could double that number, according to a study by the Columbia University Center for International Earth Science Information Network in New York, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and other groups.

The delta is where the Mekong River divides into nine channels after a 5,000km journey from the Tibetan plateau. It is "particularly susceptible" to sea-level rises, says Alex de Sherbinin, a senior research associate at the Columbia University Center. A 1m sea-level rise is "definitely within the bounds" of happening this century, he told IRIN. A 2m sea-level rise, however, is less likely.

The study examined the major deltas of the world, and was based on current patterns of climate change and migration for glacier melt, as well as interviews with displaced residents.

…Although Vietnam has always been vulnerable to adverse weather, climate change "is making the hazards worse", says Koos Neefjes, a climate change policy adviser to the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Vietnam….

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