Healthy coastal environments reduce impacts of natural disasters-IUCN

02 October 2009 | Media advisory

More than 200,000 people fled their homes and at least 91 people were reported killed after typhoon Ketsana struck the coast of central Viet Nam on Wednesday.

Severe flooding, flashfloods and landslides have hampered rescue operations and threatened the lives of many more. The ancient town of Hoi An, a World Heritage site in Quang Nam Province along with parts of Danang, the major city in central Viet Nam; and Hue, another World Heritage site have been flooded. The powerful typhoon that first hit the Philippines and Viet Nam cost another 11 lives in Cambodia where hundreds lost their homes yesterday. IUCN’s work in the area is focused on ensuring sustainable management of natural resources which helps reduce vulnerability to natural hazards. The Union draws on its experience in disaster risk reduction and post-disaster response.

Key Issues:
Manage nature better: An international effort is needed to help Viet Nam to better protect the two World Heritage sites in Viet Nam affected by the disaster and their inhabitants. Much can be done to conserve and restore the coastal and freshwater wetlands that were once much more extensive in central Viet Nam than they are today. “Wetlands are a natural reservoir for flood waters that will otherwise run unchecked into urban areas.

Deforestation in the upper watershed, or catchment areas, is another factor contributing to the severe flooding that we are seeing more and more frequently,” says Dr. Don Macintosh, Coordinator, Mangroves for the Future (MFF).
IUCN advocates a “reef to ridge” approach by which all the attributes of natural ecosystems, from the seas, rivers and wetlands, to the mountains and hill forests above, are protected. “This approach, coupled with other disaster risk reduction measures, including reliable early warning systems and effective plans and resources to cope with disasters, should now be fundamental elements of government policy in all the disaster-prone countries of Asia, “he adds.


Be better prepared for disasters- invest in nature.
Typhoon Xangsane hit Viet Nam, the Philippines and Thailand exactly three years ago causing the death of at least 280 people mainly in Viet Nam and the Philippines. “Typhoon Xansane caused severe flooding and wind damage to houses in Hoi An, some 10,000 tourists had to be evacuated, and many fishermen were lost at sea. History has repeated itself, so we really must learn the lessons this time, “ says Don Macintosh, who was working in Viet Nam during this previous typhoon.


“The risks to human life, the costs in terms of property and infrastructure damage, and the huge losses sustained by the tourism industry call for better disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction strategies. This applies not only to Viet Nam, but to the many other countries in Southeast Asia with vulnerable coastlines, because typhoons and tropical storms are becoming more frequent and severe, “says Jake Brunner, IUCN Programme Coordinator for Viet Nam. “Investment in nature can be a cost- effective way to decrease people's vulnerability to damages caused by powerful storms, flashfloods and landslides,” he adds.


Incorporate environmental safeguards into traditional disaster risk reduction. “Many disaster related actions remain response-oriented and rely on technical fixes. Without the integration of environmental safeguards ahead of time, disaster risk reduction will never be as effective as it can be. Strengthening our natural systems can minimize disaster impact and enhance community and national resilience.” says Ali Raza Rizvi, IUCN Head of Ecosystem and Livelihoods Group and Disaster Risk Reduction Programme for Asia.


Spokespersons:
• Don Macintosh, Coordinator, Mangroves for the Future
• Jake Brunner, IUCN Programme Coordinator for Viet Nam
• Ali Raza Rizvi, Regional Group Head, Ecosystems & Livelihoods Group, Colombo, IUCN Asia

Media contacts:
Mangroves for the Future: Minna Epps, t: +662 662 4029 ext 142 m: +66 8 7082 3331 e: minna@iucnt.org
IUCN Viet Nam : Julia Plevin, Communications t: + 84 (4) 726 1561 e: julia@iucn.org.vn

About IUCN
IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, with more than 1,000 government and NGO members and almost 11,000 volunteer experts in some 160 countries.
IUCN works on biodiversity, climate change, energy, human livelihoods and greening the world economy by supporting scientific research, managing field projects all over the world, and bringing governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice. www.iucn.org

About Mangroves for the Future
Mangroves for the Future (MFF), is a partner-led initiative to promote investment in coastal ecosystem which builds on a history of coastal management interventions before and after the 2004 tsunami, as well as extensive consultations with over 200 individuals and 160 institutions involved in coastal zone management. It focuses on the countries worst-affected by the tsunami; India, Indonesia, Maldives, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, as well as dialogue countries (Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan Tanzania and Viet Nam) in the region that face similar issues. MFF uses mangroves as a flagship ecosystem but is inclusive of all coastal ecosystems.
www.mangrovesforthefuture.org