VIEWS: 116 PAGES: 5 POSTED ON: 2/4/2010
Typhoons and floods in Vietnam: Measures for disaster reduction in contexts of climate change James Lewis Reports from Vietnam of typhoon Lekima which struck northern and central provinces on 3 October 2007 killing at least 77 people, are another reminder that Vietnam is a country most seriously affected by typhoons and floods (Reuters: 2007). Vietnam is one of ten countries having a larger share of population within the global low elevation coastal zone (GLECZ), that is, within 100 kilometres of a coastline and at or below ten metres in elevation (McGranahan, G et al: 2006) and, therefore, at high risk to typhoons and floods. Vietnam and Bangladesh are the two continental countries having the largest percentages of their populations living within the zone, that of Vietnam being the higher at 53 per cent. Of a national total of about 83 million (GSO: 2004), therefore, 44 million Vietnamese people live at risk to sea level rise and its associated hazards, in heavily populated coastal lowlands and delta regions. Bangladesh is more often the country named in reference to flooding and cyclones, the hazards associated with sea level rise, but its percentage of population within the zone means that Vietnam is at greatest proportional risk. Vietnam forms the eastward extent of the Indochinese peninsular, its borders with China, Laos and Cambodia totalling 3,000 km, “a very long border compared to the country’s surface area” (Vu Tu Lap: 1979) matched by its coastline to the east of 3,444 km (Index Mundi: 2007), a factor contributing to its low elevation coastal region of considerable length and exposure to the South China / Eastern Sea. Three monsoons, from north-east Asia, south Asia and south-west Asia, meet over Vietnam creating, in their turn, cold winter drought, summer heat, heavy rains and marked differences in climate from north to south of the country. Sea temperatures are similarly variable on a coastline that extends between latitudes 21° and 9°N. “There have been typhoons in which the waves at Halong Bay (near Hanoi) reached 30 metres, and foam even covered Long Chau lighthouse, 50 metres above sea level.” (Vu Tu Lap: 1979 pp15, 89 & 94). Further south, however: “It is on the shores of central Vietnam’s flat coastal alluvial plains that the waves break highest and are most numerous.” Slowly flowing rivers and streams skirt their way round constantly shifting sand dunes to find their way to the sea, trees having been planted in attempts to restrain and fix the dunes, on a coastline repeatedly inset by estuaries, coves, backwaters and lagoons of up to 70 kilometres in length. Principal road routes and railways thread their way between undulating higher ground to the west and the sea to the east. Inflow of the sea is tempered by a system of dykes, dams and lakes, to regularise the flow of sea water and to counteract stagnation in the dry season. Centrally located on Vietnam’s “Green Corridor” and complex coastline, Thua Thien Hué province i has an overall area of 5,009 square kilometres, a population of 1,136,200, an average population density 1 of 225 per sq km and direct exposure to the sea. Population has increased by12.25 per cent since 1995, only marginally less than Vietnam’s national population growth during the same period. The ii province has eight rural districts , in addition to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site of Hué City on the Huong (perfume) River (VNAT: 2007). The northern and southern regions of Vietnam extend further inland, have larger areas of fertile and accessible land, and concentrations of population around the capital Ho Chi Minh City on the Mekong delta in the south, and the principal city and regional capital of Hanoi in the north. Although population is less in number, population density is similar to most rural provinces and higher than that of some (GSO: 2004). Central Vietnam is only 50-100 km wide with a 500 km (approx) length of coast exposed to the sea, a disproportionately high land to coastline ratio. For the whole of Vietnam and for a 26 year period, 1975-2001, 13,275 deaths are recorded from typhoons, windstorms, floods and droughts (EM-DAT). During a closely similar 26 year period, 1980 to 2006, and in only three selected coastal provinces of Vietnam’s central region, almost 2000 people have been killed by windstorms, typhoons and floods (see Table). Sixty percent of this total, and 84 percent of the number of people made homeless, have been caused by typhoons and windstorms. In recent years, attention has turned to the disproportionate exposure and consequent losses in this extended coastal region of Vietnam. Building on earlier Vietnam experience with the United Nations Centre for Human Settlement (UNHabitat), Development Workshop France (DWF) has, since 1999, promoted the preventive strengthening of existing houses in Central Vietnam (with initial support from the Canadian International Development Agency / CIDA and, since 2003, from the European Commission Directorate for Humanitarian Aid / ECHO). Preventive strengthening is based on rapid training of artisans and community leaders in the application of ten key generic principles of typhoon and flood resistant domestic design and construction (DWF: 2007). DWF also promotes awareness raising events in schools and in public places using media ranging from theatre to boat races and traditional community communication methods by television, to get across the message that prevention is easy, cheap and durable. Although every house has different needs, the average cost of strengthening is about 25% of the house value; access to credit and financial encouragement is part of the package. In 1999, community leaders viewed the idea of strengthening houses as laughable. In October 2006, the hundreds of buildings that had been strengthened under the DWF programme withstood the impact of Typhoon Xangsane that destroyed 20,000 other houses and unroofed 250,000 more in the three central provinces. The provincial authorities issued an edict throughout the population, stating that the DWF ten key principles had to be applied to houses and public buildings to avoid further damage from future disasters. Community leaders and families alike are now convinced that investing in prevention is cheaper than waiting for a storm to come and paying the high price of reconstruction (Norton, John & Chantry, Guillaume: 2007). 2 This kind of programme is well justified as one small but significant measure against recurrent losses, as are numerous other current post-disaster initiatives (eg: IFRC: 2001 & 2002). But deaths, homelessness and economic losses are set to continue, and likely to increase overall, in current and forthcoming contexts of climate change and rising sea levels. They will increase inexorably where there has been comparatively little preventive strategy, which suggests that repetitive and costly post- disaster assistance might not always be possible. A further 58,000 houses were damaged or destroyed by typhoon Lekima with estimated damages of US$ 130 million (Reuters: 2007). Typhoons and floods do not select, they are random in their incidence and impacts. Housing and its occupants are not the only victims; workshops, docksides, fishing fleets, farms and agriculture all need simultaneous protection. Instead of apparent series of piecemeal post-event responses, an overall developmental concept could comprise multidisciplinary participation within a single framework for the entire Vietnam low elevation coastal zone: reconstruction, construction and maintenance of dykes for flood resistance, mangrove plantation and other vegetation for wave reduction (eg: Mazda, Yoshihiro et al: 1997), cyclone shelters and killas for population and animal security, communications systems for promulgation of warnings - and construction strengthening projects - would be a part of the same development programme: “investing in prevention is cheaper than waiting for a storm to come and paying the high price of reconstruction”. Why is it then that such programmes are in such short supply (Lewis, James: 1999 & 2007) ? Climate change and sea level rise were recognised during the 1980s and could have heralded then the need for such action. But pre-disaster has never held the initiative nor the resources; post-disaster, after people have been killed and dwellings destroyed, is more dramatic, attracts greater publicity - and therefore more kudos and more money. It is also so much more cruel. Eminently successful and praiseworthy projects, such as domestic construction strengthening in central Vietnam, have demonstrated the success that professional quality and popular participation can generate when given the opportunity. It is time for wider perspectives. email@example.com www.livingwithflooding.eu 3 TABLE Vietnam central eastern coast Recorded typhoons, windstorms and floods 1980-2006 (Source: EM-DAT) Provinces of Binh Tri Thien, Thua Thien Hue, Quang Binh and Quang Tri iii YEAR TYPE NAME # KILLED # INJURED # HOMELESS Typhoon Flood Typhoon Flood Typhoon Flood 1980 Flood 94 628,000 1985 Typhoon Cecil 798 257 225,000 1989 Typhoon Brian 104 762 1990 Typhoon Becky 19 108 1991 Typhoon Fred 17 16 455,905 1991 Windstorm 251 200 1992 Typhoon Angela 17 12 980 1992 Flood 1 1995 Flood 253 1996 Flood 60 1999 Flood 127 164 45,265 2000 Typhoon Kaemi 17 4 2001 Typhoon Lingling 20 83 13,100 2001 Typhoon Usagi 3 3 10,000 2004 Typhoon Muifa 56 2005 Flood 17 2006 Typhoon Xangsane 71 525 98,680 TOTALS 1,373 552 1,970 164 803,665 673,265 REFERENCES CPV (2005) Seas and islands in Vietnam Communist Party of Vietnam On-line Newspaper http://www.dangcongsan.vn/english/specials/seasandislands/details.asp?topic=68&subtopic=167&lea der_topic=280&id=BT2110558190 Access October 2007. DWF (2007) Development Workshop: Vietnam http://www.vietnamdisasterprevention.org/ risk_typhoons.htm Access October 2007. EM-DAT: The OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database - www.em-dat.net - Université Catholique de Louvain - Brussels – Belgium. Access October 2007. GSO (2004) Average population by province General Statistics Office of Vietnam. Hanoi http://www.gso.gov.vn/default_en.aspx?tabid=491 Access October 2007. IFRC (2001) Post-flood recovery in Vietnam World Disasters Report Chapter 5 Geneva, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies IFRC (2002) Mangrove planting saves lives and money in Vietnam World Disasters Report Focus on Reducing Risk. Geneva. International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Index Mundi (2007) Bangladesh coastline http://www.indexmundi.com/bangladesh/coastline.html and Vietnam coastline http://www.indexmundi.com/vietnam/coastline.html Access October 2007. 4 Lewis, James (2007) Climate and Disaster Reduction Tiempo Climate Newswatch http://www.tiempocyberclimate.org/newswatch/comment070217.htm Access October 2007. Mazda, Yoshihiro et al (1997) Mangroves as a Coastal Protection from Waves in the Tong King Delta, Vietnam Mangroves and Salt Marshes 1/ 127-135. Kluwer. Netherlands McGranahan, Gordon; Balk, Deborah & Anderson, Bridget (2006) Low coastal zone settlements Tiempo Issue 59. April. IIED University of East Anglia http://sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu/gpw/docs/coastal_Tiempo.pdf See also: http://sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu/gpw/lecz.jsp Access October 2007. Norton, John & Chantry, Guillaume (2007) More to lose – reducing family vulnerability to floods and storms in Central Vietnam Development Workshop France. Asian Disaster Reduction Center. March www.adrc.or.jp/publications/TDRM2005/TDRM_Good_Practices/PDF-sup2007e/VietNam.pdf Access October 2007. Reuters AlertNet (2007) Vietnam floodwaters recede, but toll rises 8 October http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/HAN155060.htm Access October 2007. VNAT (accessed 2007) Thua Thiên Hué Province: Vietnam National Administration of Tourism http://www.vietnamtourism.com/Hue/e_pages/e_hue.htm Access October 2007. Vu Tu Lap (1979) Vietnam: Geographical Data Foreign Languages Publishing House. Hanoi NOTES i Provinces of Thua Thien Hué, Quang Binh and Quang Tri, have been formed from the division of Binh Tri Thien province, the name of which is superseded (DWF: 2007). ii The eight rural districts of Thua Thien Hué Province are: Phong Dien, Quang Dien, Huong Tra, Phu Vang, Huong Thuy, Phu Loc, Nam Dong and A Luoi (VNAT: 2007). iii Binh Tri Thien Province has been divided and superseded by the three new provinces of Thua Bien Hué, Quang Binh & Quang Tri. To be inclusive of the impacts of typhoons and floods during the period covered by this Table, all four province names are used so as to accommodate this relatively recent administrative change. All four names appear in the information source. 5
"Typhoons and floods in Vietnam Measures for disaster reduction in "