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Exploring local initiatives to confront climate change

A group of villagers doing an exercise with EMW contractors on how climate change is affecting their lives.
(Kathy Jones/IRIN)

About 30 villagers gathered in a communal hall in Quang Nam Province as part of an initiative by the US non-governmental organisation, the East Meets West Foundation, to assess how climate change was affecting rural communities in the region.

[See IRIN's in-depth on climate change]

Central Vietnam is regularly hit by typhoons and floods, and their frequency and destructiveness have increased, according to disaster officials.

Last November, torrential rains caused flooding that killed more than 70 people in the region, and washed out more than 10,000 homes. "They were the most serious floods I have ever seen," said Dang Thi Toi, a fisherwoman in Tan An, who said her boat was among 35 in the village that were swept away.

International researchers warn that floods in Vietnam's coastal areas will worsen as climate change takes effect. "Rising temperatures will result in increased rainfall during the summer monsoon season with more intense tropical storms, which greatly expand inundation in low-lying coastal areas," according to a report by the International Centre for Environmental Management (ICEM), a research and consulting body in Australia and Vietnam.

It forecasts that floods in coastal areas will take longer to drain as the sea level rises, and that damaging storm surge from typhoons will reach further inland.

Last year, the World Bank published research that described sea level rises as "potentially catastrophic" for Vietnam, warning that global warming could lead to an increase of 1-3m this century.

The World Bank's Global Monitoring Report 2008 estimates that Vietnam would be the country most affected by a 1m rise in sea levels, predicting that the nation would lose 28 percent of its wetlands and 10 percent of its GDP and millions of people would have to relocate.


Photo: Kathy Jones/IRIN
A fisherwoman on the coast by Tan An Village, Quang Nam Province

Fisherwoman Dang Thi Toi said floods and storms were becoming harder to predict. "For several months we thought it was the flood season, so we put away all of our fishing boats, but the floods didn't come. Then for some months we didn't think the floods would happen, but they did," she explains, adding that the region was starting to experience storms in April and May, when villagers usually fish offshore.

Rick McGowan, a water and environmental sanitation specialist for the East Meets West Foundation, told IRIN that fortifying the local dyke system should be a priority of any adaptation programme seeking to mitigate the effects of climate change.

He said that when dykes are breached, saline water surges in from the ocean, and productive farmland is destroyed by salination. McGowan said it could take years before such land is agriculturally productive again.

Government programme

Denmark has just approved a US$40 million package to support the Vietnamese government's national target plan on climate change, which is due to be approved this year, and the national energy efficiency programme over the next five years.

Part of the money will help support pilot projects on climate change adaptation in Quang Nam in Central Vietnam, and in Ben Tre Province in the Mekong River Delta region in the south.

The ambassador, Peter Lysholt Hansen, said Denmark's priority was to help Vietnam deal with the "major challenges" of climate change and to raise awareness about global warming across the country.

"We are also trying to introduce climate change [mitigation strategies] into provincial planning," said Hansen, who also co-chairs the donor group on climate change in Vietnam of the UN. "In the socio-economic development plans, you have to have climate change integrated in everything."

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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