Building drought and desertification management systems in Vietnam

Vietnam is one of five countries which are forecast to be heavily influenced by climate change, causing an increase in different kinds of severe natural disasters, typically drought and desertification. In order to deal with the increasing problem strategic measures for natural disaster prevention, response and mitigation are needed, including the implementation of drought and desertification management systems in Vietnam.

Drought and desertification are two kinds of natural disasters which often occur in Vietnam; especially in the coastal central and the south central regions. Damage caused by drought and desertification rank third in the country, after flood and storm damage. While the systems currently in place to prevent and control flooding, and the search and rescue of potential victims due to flooding, are effective, focus on the prevention of other natural disasters such as drought and desertification are lacking. However, scientists from the Institute of Geography under the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology are aiming to pay more attention to drought and desertification prevention and management, by building a new management system in Vietnam.



Drought and desertification in Vietnam


According to statistics starting in 1960, Vietnam has been suffering from drought problems for 36 years, with differing drought levels throughout the years. Over the past 15 years, drought has occurred in Vietnam more often and more seriously, including heavy droughts in northern and central provinces in 1993, in the Central Highlands, the south central provinces and the Mekong river delta in 2004. The problems are also more recent. Drought occured in the Red river delta in 2009 and 2010, with the total of rainfall in January 2010 only equaling 85% of average annual rainfall. Water levels at Hanoi gauging station were only 10 centimetres on February 21st 2010. Many hydroelectric lakes also stored water lower than their designed levels (such as Hoa Binh hydroelectric plant at 94%, Thac Ba plant at 61% and Tuyen Quang plant at 61%).

Desertification in Vietnam is not as concentrated into large areas like in other nations. It distributes nationwide, mainly in rural and mountainous areas, barrens, coastal sandy soil and degraded poor land. Over 90% of land areas are being affected by desertification. Bare hills which are heavily degraded and barren soil caused by deforestation make the land unsuitable for a long time. Desertification has also occured in ten coastal central provinces from Quang Binh to Binh Thuan, causing sand dunes. Large expanses of traditional sand deserts have also appeared in areas such as Tuy Phong and Bac Binh in Binh Thuan province and Ninh Phuoc in Ninh Thuan province.


Drought and desertification management


In 1998 Vietnam approved and participated in an international convention on desertification prevention, and became the 134th member of this organization. In 2003 the Prime Minister established the National Coordination Board on implementation of desertification prevention of the United Nations, headed by the Permanent Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. However, drought and desertification management has not been firmly implemented with regulations and policies for eco-regions. There has not been effective action to prevent the spread of desertification. Therefore, it is necessary to build a system to manage drought and desertification and implement natural disaster management policies effectively in Vietnam.

Scientists from the Institute of Geography referred to the US’s natural disaster management cycle and proposed to apply this system in Vietnam. The natural disaster management cycle includes two main periods: risk and accident management. Activities in the risk management period aim to prevent drought and lessen the effects caused by drought, while activities in the accident management period aims to cope with and overcome influences caused by drought.


Natural disaster management circle


Consolidation to build drought and desertification management

Under the title - the National Strategy for National Disaster Prevention, Response and Mitigation to 2020 - researchers from the Institute of Geography under Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology proposed solutions to improve the system on natural disaster prevention and mitigation. Due to its lack of previous attention researchers paid special considerationtion to drought and desertification management and climate changes at the central and local levels.

At the central level, the Steering committee on Flood and Storm Control and Natural Disaster Mitigation was improved into the National Committee on Natural Disaster Prevention, Response and Mitigation, headed by a Deputy Prime Minister. The Office of the national committee on natural disaster prevention, response and mitigation and sub-committees will assist the Committee.

At the local level, a Committee on Natural Disaster Prevention, Response and Mitigation is established at the provincial level. In other departments and agencies, groups of natural disaster prevention, response and mitigation will be set up according to their functions and assigned tasks. In districts and communes, a steering committee on natural prevention, response and mitigation at precinct level is established and led by the chairman of the district or commune people’s committee. This steering committee will be overseen by the Departments of Agriculture or of Economy at district level, and by staff at the commune level. Following is the organization structure of the Subcommittee on Drought and Desertification Prevention.



Although Vietnam has obtained many achievements in guiding natural disaster prevention, response and mitigation, several points still require more attention, especially with global climate changes at present. Therefore, the proposal by scientists from the Institute of Geography can be considered a positive contribution to the effectiveness of natural disaster prevention, response and mitigation in Vietnam in general and in the national management of drought and desertification in particular.


Link to Vietnamese version
Translated by Tuyet Nhung

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