Climate Change Resilience in Viet Nam: Viet Nam’s typhoon season and changing vulnerability

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Photo: UNDP Viet Nam/Phan Huong Giang

Viet Nam is among the 10 countries most affected by climate change from 1997 to 2016 according to the Long-Term Climate Risk Index.  During the last 50 years (1958-2007), the annual average temperature increased about 0.5° and 0.7° and the sea levels rose by 2.8 mm/year along the country’s 3000km coastline that caused land erosion and slides. By 2100, 5% of Viet Nam’s land is at risk due to climate change and 7% of the agricultural activities will be impacted in turn reduce the GDP by 10% in the Red River and Mekong Deltas. These trends will particularly the 11% of the Vietnamese population considered as especially vulnerable groups including the poor and near poor, women, children, those with disabilities and ethnic minorities.

Large scale typhoons that originate in the Pacific, often finish their race on the Vietnamese coast causing storm surge and flooding that affects hundreds thousand of people. For example, Typhoon Damrey which hit Viet Nam on 4th November 2017 ripped through to Central and South-East region, battering 9 provinces with wind of up to 135 kilometres per hour causing damage to agriculture, aquaculture, infrastructure and housing.  More than 100 people were killed, and more than 4.33 million of people were affected including 395,000 poor and near poor who required urgent assistance. More than 130,000 houses were destroyed and several thousand hectares of agricultural land was damaged. The typhoon also caused widespread damage to roads, water and electricity infrastructure.   

The Government of Viet Nam immediately started its emergency response and early recovery plan. They provided the first necessities such as food, water and shelters to the most affected communities.  It soon became clear that this storm was very much in line with the Government of Viet Nam’s official climate projections, which forecast both more intense typhoons and storms that take less predictable, and often southerly tracks. Typhoon Damrey hit hardest in Khanh Hoa province and the Central and South Highlands, areas which historically have been spared such ferocious storms.  

The Government of Viet Nam officially issued a request for international humanitarian support from through the National Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control (NCDPC) to help the affected provinces.  The UN agencies worked closely with their Government counterparts, the Red Cross and civil society groups to help those most in need. 

But increasingly organisations are also reaching out to Vietnamese and international universities and technical specialists to help the communities and government better understand the current and future risks as well as to better understand how communities and government can adapt.

Although the government could meet humanitarian needs, some economic losses could have been avoided by early investment in the modernization of water infrastructure and agriculture land. This kind of event cannot be forecasted but can be better minimized the damage by active preparedness and response.

Recognizing increasing climate change risk, more work is needed to strengthen building codes, and to promote preparedness by training local communities on building resilient infrastructure and early recovery. Ideally prioritization of this action should be based on a better understanding of community-based disaster risk assessment. Identifying who and what are vulnerable to climate change, what risks are, why, and over what timescales is essential. This is the most efficient way to recognize the complexity of building resilience to climate change that also requires active participation from the government, local authorities, citizens, scientists, and private sectors.

Perhaps the next generation of disaster preparedness action in Viet Nam can include efficient researcher and engineer networks who can help conduct the targeted social and scientific surveys. In order to move forward, it is essential that the government invest in high-quality data, which can help ensure effective climate change adaptation. Building networks made up of experienced researchers, governmental institutes, local facilitators, NGO's and other stakeholders, could help Viet Nam strengthen the Government’s leading role in effective and resilient development actions.

Climate change and disaster risk reduction Disaster risk management Disaster risk reduction Environment Sustainable Development Goals Goal 13 Climate action Viet Nam

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