Last update 3/21/2011 10:20:00 AM (GMT+7)

Clear response to climate change needed
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VietNamNet Bridge – The negative impacts of climate change on Viet Nam are obvious but the country remains confused about an effective, comprehensive response strategy, experts said at a meeting held last Friday to mark the World Meteorology Day (March 18).

Experts as well as provincial and city representatives said there were differences of opinion on a specific strategy to minimise the consequences of climate change.

They said that the actual, specific impacts experienced by regions and localities nationwide were yet to be assessed, and this had hindered the formulation of effective response plans at the local level.

The rise in seawater level was often mentioned, but there was no evaluation of salinity intrusion into the mainland, particularly of freshwater sources like the Dong Nai River, said a representative of the Dong Nai Province's Environmental Protection Division.

There was also no evaluation of the impact such intrusion would have on the livelihoods of nearly 16 million local people, he said.

He also wanted to know what the benchmark was to calculate the rise of seawater levels and how climate change would affect the frequency of storms, saying there was no clarity on these issues.

Duong Van Chi of the Mekong Delta Rice Institute said that agricultural production, which plays a crucial role in national development, especially in the delta regions, had been affected by unusual weather in recent years.

Significant impacts had been seen on rice cultivation, the output of crops in general and in animal husbandry, he said.

But relevant authorities and agencies remained unclear on how the agricultural sector could be helped to deal with climate change impacts, Chi added.

An official from the Steering Board for the Southwestern Region said there were several climate change response plans that lacked teeth because the close co-ordination needed between relevant ministries, agencies and localities was missing.

Adverse impacts

Tran Thuc, head of the Viet Nam Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said climate change had caused temperatures in Viet Nam to rise by 0.5 degrees Celsius over the past five decades, temperatures in winter to rise faster than in summer, and unseasonal and abnormally heavy rains to occur more frequently.

He cited as an example the downpour in November 2008 that triggered unprecedented flooding in Ha Noi and adjacent provinces.

Thuc said the frequency of cold spells in the northern region had dropped sharply to 249 over the 1991-2000 period from 288 in 1971-1980, but they had intensified in strength.

The number of powerful storms hitting the country had been more than expected in recent years, he said.

Water levels in the East Sea had risen by 4.7mm a year while coastal areas in the country were seeing a 2.9mm annual rise in seawater levels, he added.

Nguyen Dong Hoai, head of the Ca Mau Hydrology Division, said the protective forest area (mainly cajeput forests) in Mekong Delta province had suffered serious losses of late. As many as 60 seawalls had lost their protected forest areas and the width of 300km of remaining levees had been reduced to 20-100m.

He said the southernmost province in the country was facing the risk of having no protective forests left for the seawall system in the next three years.

To cope with the situation, Vietnamese authorities mapped out a scenario late last year, anticipating a rise of 2 to 3 degrees Celsius in temperatures by 2100 and 10 to 20 per cent increase in rainfall.

It estimated the highest rise in seawater levels of 82cm stretching from Ca Mau to Kien Giang provinces in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta, and the lowest of 64cm in Mong Cai Town in the northern province of Quang Ninh.

The national average rise in seawater level by 2100 was estimated at 75cm.

The scenario also warned that a 1m increase in seawater levels would submerge around 1, of the Hong (Red) River Delta, 2, of coastal areas, and as much as 15, of the Mekong Delta.

Practical plans

Le Cong Thanh, director of the Department of Hydro-Meteorology and Climate Change, the country should accord top priority over the next five years to drawing up masterplans for the Mekong and the Red river deltas, and to reinforcing the sea and river dyke systems.

The plans should cover prevention of inner city flooding, modernise the disaster warning system, and regularly assess the situation of greenhouse emissions, he said.

A representative of the Danish Embassy said it was also important that the role of each ministry, agency and locality in co-ordinating and implementing the national strategy for climate change response was specified.

The next task was to define which targets should be prioritised, and not be too ambitious by setting too many targets at the same time, he said.

Le Xuan Tuyen of the National Centre for Hydro-Meteorology said top priority should be given to the agricultural sector given that it was the most vulnerable to climate change impacts and that it was a spearhead sector for the economy. Viet Nam is a leading exporter of rice, pepper, rubber, coffee and cashew nuts in the world.

Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha emphasised the need to concretise the national response to climate change soon, but added it was impossible to come up with a strategy overnight.

Tran Thi Thanh Phuong of the World Bank's Viet Nam office said at the seminar that the bank would provide funding of US$800 million to help Viet Nam finalise its climate change response strategy.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News