70 Percent of Vietnam’s Population Face Risk from Water-related Natural Disasters

Diep Nguyen

08:44 10/06/2019

BizLIVE -

The costs of these disasters have been high—13,000 deaths, property damage of over US$6 billion in two decades, and losses of 1–1.5 percent of GDP each year.

70 Percent of Vietnam’s Population Face Risk from Water-related Natural Disasters

Photo Courtesy: USAid

With more than 70 percent of the population at high risk from water-related natural disasters, Vietnam is one of the most hazard-prone countries in the East Asia and Pacific region. The costs of these disasters have been high—13,000 deaths, property damage of over US$6 billion in two decades, and losses of 1–1.5 percent of GDP each year. 
These disasters have also revealed low levels of resilience. Flash floods kill an average of 50 people each year. Cities and farms in the Mekong Delta are flooded up to 3 meters every year. In addition, more than 30 dam failures in the last five years have led to devastating regional flooding, loss of human life, and substantial economic losses.
Some of these disasters stem from land-use changes and poor management, aggravated by climate change. Vietnam is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. Climate change is expected to increase total annual runoff slightly, but more rain in the wet season and less in the dry will result in more variability and more extreme events. 
The likely impacts are grim: sea-level rise of up to 30 centimeters by 2050, declining river flows, increasing reliance on crossborder flows,3 rising number and intensity of storms and floods, more frequent drought conditions, and increased saltwater intrusion.
Flood risks are rising, particularly in the Mekong Delta and in the south and centre of the country. A recent assessment of flood risk shows that historical peak flood flows that used to occur once every- one to five centuries are now expected across half the country in as little as every 20 years or less by 2026–45. The half of the country south of Danang will be particularly affected.
In Ho Chi Minh City, the area exposed to the risk of a 100- year flood is projected to increase from 29 percent to 46 percent by 2026–45. Alternating cycles of flood and drought are highlighting infrastructure gaps in some areas. 
Despite the extensive development of dams, reservoirs, and other water control structures, a changing climate and changing patterns of runoff and river flow are revealing problems of inadequate infrastructure. 
A recent study of Ninh Thuan Province found that fluctuating climate patterns were contributing to alternating cycles of drought and flood. Reservoirs in the province hold only 8 percent of the average annual flow and are thus unable either to prevent damaging flooding in a wet year or to carry over adequate water to the dry season to mitigate the impacts of drought in a dry year.

DIEP NGUYEN

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