Water management becomes crucially important

Improved water management can help Vietnam tackle the threat of climate change, Belgium Ambassador to Vietnam Paul Jansen said at a workshop held in Hanoi on May 28.
Overexploitation is causing a rapid lowering of the water levels in many rivers, experts warn. (Photo: VNA)
Overexploitation is causing a rapid lowering of the water levels in many rivers, experts warn. (Photo: VNA)
At the workshop, entitled “Water Management in Urban Areas in Vietnam in the Context of Climate Change”, policymakers and representatives from universities, research institutions, international development partners and private firms shared knowledge and expertise in the field.
Urban resilience has always been a key issue in the developing areas of Vietnam. And now, with the growing threat from climate change, improvements to the urban infrastructure are becoming increasingly more important, Jansen said.
Vietnam is one of the countries most affected by climate change, which also influences the interplay between water and urban areas and intensifies the risks of both drought and flooding, according to experts.
In Vietnam’s rapidly expanding cities, increased development and increased rainfall due to climate change have created significant flood risks, impacting human lives and the economy and creating environmental problems.
Analysis of climate change impact, consideration of increased risk and vulnerability as well as actions for capacity building, awareness raising and infrastructure works were discussed at the workshop.
Prof. Pham Quy Nhan, Deputy Rector of the Natural Resources and Environment University, described the current reality of water usage in Vietnam.
At present, 60 percent of the population rely on groundwater for their water supply while the groundwater resource has been heavily exploited in some areas, said Nhan.
The high extraction rates are causing a rapid lowering of the water levels in key areas around Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and in the Central Highlands. The sustainability of these water sources is under serious threat, he said.
Groundwater is very vulnerable to pollution and has a very poor inventory and information system, he added.
Climate change will increase evaporation, reducing rainfall in the dry season above all river basins, causing irrigation water demand to increase," Nhan said.
According to the professor, about 8.5 million urban citizens lack access to clean water while in rural areas, 41 million people do not have a supply that meets the Ministry of Health's clean water standards.
Along with insufficient access to clean water, millions of people suffer regular and massive losses from natural disasters.
Vietnam is one of the most natural disaster-prone countries in the world, with about half of the population living on the coast and more than 80 percent at risk of direct impacts from natural hazards.
From 1997 to 2006, natural disasters caused more than 5,000 deaths, and destroyed more than 6,000 fishing boats, nearly 300,000 houses and 4 million hectares of paddy rice, with total damage in excess of vnd50 trillion  ($2.1 billion ).
To prepare for and reduce impacts of climate changes, the country would need effective measures including national strategic plans, national policy framework, vulnerable community protection plans, sustainable water development and protection projects, and campaigns improving people’s awareness on water use, the professor said.
The workshop was held by the Embassy of Belgium, in collaboration with the Vietnam National University’s Institute of Vietnamese Studies and Development Science (IVIDES), the Belgian Development Agency (Enabel) and Belgian universities.

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