Increasing the resilience and protection of coastal populations in Vietnam
Updated: Nov 8, 2019
Vietnam is one of 30 countries at high risk according to the Climate Change Vulnerability Index. At present, the increase in the frequency of typhoons and their unpredictability are the main concerns hovering over the 3260 kilometres of coastline of this country with almost 100 million inhabitants.
We met the project''Improve coastal resilience'' which concerns 100 coastal municipalities in central Vietnam, with the city of Hue as the focal point. It is divided into 3 distinct but complementary actions. The first concerns housing and aims to benefit 20,000 poor people exposed to climate disasters. The second concerns the regeneration of mangroves acting as buffer zones against these same disasters. Finally, the third concerns improving access to climate data in order to anticipate future problems. The inhabitants are mainly farmers and fishermen.
A territory already affected by rising waters and violent events
The project was launched shortly after Typhoon Haiyan hit South East Asia in November 2013. There was already a government project with several pillars on coastal resilience, but its effectiveness was not good, as evidenced by the survival of only 50% of the areas planted with mangroves. It focused on resilience in the event of storms, with a housing programme and plantations in mangroves.
After a diplomatic visit to the Philippines, which was largely affected by the typhoon, the Vietnamese authorities realized the weaknesses of their first programme. They then wondered what would have happened if the disaster had affected Vietnam. From there, the government launched the project: "Improving the resilience of vulnerable coastal communities to climate change related impacts in Vietnam". The new project is based on the collaboration between the government through a Green Climate Fund (GCF) under the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Vietnam in 2014. The latter entity rather plays a technical support role, and both are involved in project management. UNDP has also worked to professionalize the project with, among other things, the introduction of new practices: cross-referencing more data in decision-making, providing broader scientific knowledge and, above all, providing resources.
Their techniques have been incorporated into the operation and passed on to local actors. The long-standing collaboration of the two project entities facilitated implementation, particularly at the administrative level where the many authorizations required for UNDP's work were easily issued.
A programme bringing together fragmented initiatives on coastal urban planning
Thanks to the Vietnamese government's first programme, actions have been greatly facilitated. Pilot villages already existed on the coasts, which only had to be connected to each other. Functional practices were replicated in light of UNDP climate change data and coastal risk prediction maps. The start of the project was greatly facilitated in this respect. The most difficult aspect was that the management of the initial initiatives was highly segmented because of the strong compartmentalization that exists between Vietnamese ministries. Pooling was sometimes slowed down because many people were not aware of the actions of other managers.
There is a wide variety in the villages selected for housing. Nevertheless, all villagers meet a number of criteria that allow them to receive UNDP assistance. The village must be in a situation of concern with regard to coastal risks (red) according to the risk prevention map set up by UNDP. Then, in individual capacities, it is required that the villagers be on the list of people in a situation of vulnerability or poverty. In addition, their houses must suffer in particular from architectural problems. Finally, people who are members of a minority and/or elderly people can also benefit from the program. Thanks to the project, no new houses have been built in the red areas of the risk prevention map.
No population displacement takes place, so if houses are located in these areas they are eligible for renovation. As long as there are still houses that do not meet UNDP criteria in a selected village, the project is not considered completed. There is thus strict equality between the selected inhabitants. The architecture of the new houses is based on the same model adapted to floods and rising water: a mezzanine construction on stilts 3 metres high, all with resistant materials such as metal for the floor. Each renovation is estimated at approximately $2,000. There is no consideration of worker labour in the renovation of houses, the household members who can participate in the work must do so. It should be noted that it is forbidden to sell your house after construction.
A plant component not neglected in adaptation
Historically, mangroves were very abundant in the project areas. But these were very sensitive to temperature variations, in the order of an additional half a degree or missing. They were further weakened by deforestation, as well as by livestock and fishing practices. As a result, their surface areas had decreased significantly over the past 30 years. The project focuses on the most vulnerable coastlines where forests are most sparse. A mix of species is chosen according to climato-geographical data by external expert consultants. Thus 18 species are now planted as part of this initiative. The first government project had as stated above a tree survival rate of 50% after planting, it is now 80-90% thanks to techniques provided by UNDP.
A national program with a variety of funding options
On the decision-making side, the populations take part in the project in the form of contracts with the State as associations, small businesses or others. Out of the nearly 100 people working at UNDP Vietnam, 3 people are working on the project. Ultimately, regional governments manage the project locally. The budget of this project depends on a lot of co-financing and cross-financing. It amounts to 40.5 million dollars (for the entire project), with 20 million for housing, 13 million for mangroves and finally 7.5 million for access to climate data. Direct GCF funding covers 73% of this amount, the rest is co-financing from various ministries and UNDP (4% of the total amount). No foreign companies are funding this project.
The population appears satisfied with this program when it comes to its assistance. Notable conflicts concern the expansion of the extent of mangroves, which competes with shrimp or crab aquaculture. In these cases, managers propose alternatives to these activities and promote sustainable fishing, which is not always the case at present.