In partnership with the Vietnam Administration of the Seas and Islands (VASI) of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), IUCN organized a workshop in HCMC on September 6, 2011 to launch the Vietnam component of Building Coastal Resilience (BCR). With activities in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, BCR is a 4-year EU-funded project to build the capacity of local government and local people to plan for, and adapt to, future climate risks in provinces along the coastline between Bangkok and HCMC. In Vietnam, BCR will focus on Can Gio, Ben Tre, Soc Trang, and Kien Giang. IUCN’s national-level partners are VASI and GIZ; the local partners are Ben Tre, Soc Trang, and Kien Giang DONREs.
In addition to VASI and IUCN, participants included senior government officials from Ben Tre, Soc Trang, and Kien Giang, the three DONREs, Can Gio Management Board, and representatives from WWF and GIZ. WWF and the Danida-supported National Target Program (NTP) on Responding to Climate Change are active in Ben Tre; GIZ has projects in Soc Trang and Kien Giang.
The workshop was opened by MONRE Vice-Minister Nguyen Van Duc and VASI Deputy Administrator Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Chu Hoi. IUCN’s Jake Brunner then introduced the project and spoke about a recent study showing that sea level in the Gulf of Thailand is rising by 3-5.5 mm/year. A USGS study showed similar rates for the Mekong Delta facing the East Sea. These rates are not only 2-3 times faster than the global average of 1.8 mm/year, but significantly faster than MONRE’s own estimates. Factors driving such rapid sea level rise include soil compaction in the delta as a result of groundwater extraction and the reduction in sediment supply to the delta as a result of river dyke construction.
Brunner’s presentation highlighted the use of bamboo fences to slow down and eventually reverse coastal erosion at a WWF-supported project in Thailand. Because bamboo is strong and flexible, it absorbs the energy of the waves rather than deflects it along the coast, and by slowing down the along-shore current it allows the build up of sediment. Mangroves can then colonize the newly created coastline. GIZ has tested the same method using bamboo in Soc Trang and melaleuca in Kien Giang. These are examples of nature can be harnessed to adapt to climate change. BCR will promote this ecosystem-based approach because it is much less expensive and less environmentally damaging than concrete breakwaters and other “hard” engineering solutions.
Brunner observed that adapting to climate change in the Mekong Delta is particularly challenging because of the dense population, high natural resource dependence, growing competition over water, and administrative fragmentation that complicates planning at the delta-scale; development priorities that are often implemented through large, top-down programs that may not respond to local condition or take advantage of local knowledge; and the fact that (according to a recent World Bank study) adaptation is often undermined by planning decisions that increase exposure (e.g., building higher and higher dykes that risk catastrophic collapse) and increase sensitivity (e.g., through the loss of mangroves, wetlands, and other common-pool resources that provide food, fuel, and other products to the poor and landless).
After the presentations, there was a question and answer session. Several participants asked about specific project activities. IUCN’s Nguyen Duc Tu replied that these will be determined based in the results of a situation analysis of the environmental and policy context in the four focal provinces, which will be carried out in September-October 2011. Also over the next few months, IUCN will post a GIS database of land cover change between 2005 and 2010 in the Mekong Delta on the WISDOM web site (www.wisdom.caf.dlr.de/); collaborate with WWF to carry out household vulnerability assessment of coastal communities in Ben Tre; and in collaboration with WISDOM carry out an economic valuation of the environmental goods and services that the Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere provides local communities and HCMC.
BCR will be coordinated out of IUCN’s office in HCMC. For further information about BCR, please contact: Nguyen Duc Tu, IUCN Water and Wetland Coordinator, at tu.NGUYENDUC@iucn.org.