Resilient shores: Risks and opportunities for Vietnam's coastal development
One of the most destructive storms in Vietnam’s South Central Coast in living memory, Typhoon Damrey, hit Khánh Hòa province with its full force on November 4, 2017.
With 107 deaths and severe impacts on people’s livelihoods and property, the storm served as a devastating reminder of the destructive force of nature. For Vietnam’s long experience with natural disasters, unfortunately Damrey was not an isolated event – as we write this, the country’s central coast is being hit by a series of devastating storms and floods that have cost dozens of lives.
In a country that is among the most exposed to natural hazards, Vietnam’s coastal communities frequently experience typhoons, storm surges, flooding, coastal erosion, droughts, or saline intrusion. In the coming years, these disaster risks are bound to increase with rapid urbanization, economic growth, and climate change. Yet despite these risks, coastal regions host thriving economic sectors – including, tourism, industry, and aquaculture – and can be a powerful engine for Vietnam’s continued socioeconomic development.
Resilient Shores, a new report jointly developed by the government of Vietnam, the World Bank, and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) offers a systematic analysis of disaster risks, and sets out an action plan for boosting resilient coastal development.
Increasing natural risks to coastal communities
The risks to people are substantial. The report shows that around 12 million people in coastal provinces are at risk of intense flooding, and over 35 percent of settlements are located on eroding coastlines. As safe places are increasingly occupied, new developments concentrate in areas where flood risks are twice as high as in established urban areas.
Natural hazards also cause significant damage to key economic sectors and public services. Each year, about $852 million (0.5 percent of national GDP) and 316,000 jobs in the agriculture, aquaculture, tourism, and manufacturing sectors are at direct risk from flooding. Coastal tourism is heavily reliant on intact beaches and ecosystems, but 42 percent of coastal hotels are estimated to be located near eroding beaches. Nationally about half of the health care facilities are in high-risk flood zones, in some provinces it is nearly all of them. Over a third of Vietnam’s electric transmission and distribution grid is in forested areas, thus making them vulnerable to falling trees during storms . The resulting power outages disrupt production and lower equipment utilization rates.
While natural risks are already substantial, climate change is expected to intensify these hazards. In a pessimistic scenario, 30 cm sea level rise could increase urban coastal areas’ exposure to intense flooding by 7 percent, exposing an additional 4.5 million people. Up to 1.2 million people could be pushed into poverty by 2030 due to climate change.
Risk management measures fall short of the needs
While the government of Vietnam has made impressive progress in managing disaster risks in recent decades, these measures fall short of the country’s needs. Hazard and socioeconomic risk information is fragmented and often incomplete. A lack of guidance, enforcement, capacity and funding have led to shortcomings in implementing risk-informed spatial planning, building codes and safety standards, and systematic maintenance of infrastructure systems.