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October 22nd, 2013
Climate Change Studies Analyse Risks and Resilience in Urban Vietnam

“Heat stress and extreme weather are a reality in the lives of Vietnam’s urban citizens, as highlighted by the vulnerable populations these projects studied,” says Diane Archer, a researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development who coordinates ACCCRN research projects. “The studies recommend ways policymakers and others can act to increase people’s resilience as temperatures rise and extreme weather poses more threats to their health, livelihoods and housing.”

Heat Stress

The first study showed that outdoor workers in Da Nang face increasing health threats from extreme heat and have few options for adapting. Women and migrants face greater risks, and poverty forces people to risk their health by working despite extreme heat. It recommends:

  • Health authorities to develop plans for heat waves and train workers to treat and prevent heat stress.
  • Employers to improve working conditions and provide protective clothing and equipment.
  • Government to enforce existing laws and regulations.
  • Long-term efforts to adapt through urban planning to improve infrastructure, such as through tree-planting for shade and heat-resistant buildings, to reduce the impact of extreme temperature.

Storms and Rising Seas

The second study assessed costs and benefits of restoring mangrove forests around Thi Nai lagoon in Quy Nhon City. Mangroves can protect people and property from storm surges and coastal floods. They also provide other benefits such as increased fish catches, fuel wood and income opportunities from ecotourism. The researchers found that the benefits of restoring mangroves are worth about twice as much as either the cost of reforestation or the benefits that would accrue from using the same area for aquaculture. The study recommends:

  • Government to provide resources to support mangrove restoration projects that involve local communities from the start.
  • Government and tour operators to develop ecotourism to take advantage of the livelihood opportunities that mangrove forests provide.
  • Policy makers to use economic valuation to compare costs and benefits in other situations.

Climate-Resilient Housing

The third study identified reasons why low-income communities in Hue and Da Nang lack housing that can withstand climatic disasters. It found that professional agencies rarely construct housing for such communities, which cannot afford the high costs. It noted that none of Central Vietnam’s universities has a course related to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Another finding was that mutual support among neighbours and friends was important for post-disaster recovery and reconstruction. The study recommends:

  • Government to subsidise or provide other policy support to overcome the high costs of designing and building resilient houses for low-income communities.
  • Government to develop more training opportunities for people, and universities to add more subjects and courses on climate risk management.
  • Government and education programmes to enhance neighbourhood activities and promote social capital to build community resilience.
  • Government to develop policies to regulate building in hazard prone areas and require builders to adhere to principles for safe housing construction.

All three studies found that people lacked knowledge about climate risks and ways to adapt. They all recommend efforts to raise public awareness and share information between officials and communities.

“Informed, participatory research is a cornerstone of building urban climate change resilience, so that governments, individual households, and businesses can make more robust decisions and investments in the face of uncertainty,” says Dr Phong Tran, Technical Lead, ISET-Vietnam, which is the country coordinator for ACCCRN in Vietnam.

The research projects highlighted above do more than just provide information. For example, the Rockefeller Foundation is now funding a project to specifically address concerns the heat stress study raised. It aims to:

  • increase awareness among vulnerable populations of the risks heat exposure poses.
  • pilot interventions to protect workers from heat exposure, and
  • develop a heat stress index to enable government officials, employers and workers to better monitor trends in risk levels.