Trần Quang Hoài, general director of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s General Department of Disaster Prevention and Control and deputy head of the Central Steering Committee on Natural Disaster Prevention and Control talks to Hà Nội Mới (New Hà Nội) newspaper about the importance of active prevention in dealing with increasingly extreme weather.
Many natural disasters that occurred nationwide this year have been blamed on climate change. What is your opinion about the issue?
I totally agree. Climate change has led to rising sea levels, the frequency and severity of natural disasters, the decline of river water resources, prolonged heat waves that caused severe droughts in the south central region and saline intrusion in the Mekong Delta.
In addition, climate change has led to heavy rainfall in a short time, causing floods and landslides in HCM City, Quảng Ninh, Thanh Hoá and Kiên Giang.
As forecast, nearly 40 per cent of the Mekong Delta, more than 10 per cent of the Red River Delta, 2.5 per cent of the central region and 20 per cent of HCM City are at risk of being underwater if sea levels rise by a metre.
Early this month, heavy downpours were recorded with severe flash floods and landslides. The natural disasters and their impacts are factors that hinder the sustainable development of the country.
In the past 20 years, annual natural calamities have killed more than 400 people. The economic losses for Việt Nam are estimated at 1-1.5 per cent of GDP.
Since the beginning of this year, there have been 12 types of natural disasters nationwide, causing more than 60 fatalities and economic losses of over VNĐ1.5 trillion (US$64.5 million).
Is climate change the only reason?
I think there are many other reasons apart from climate change.
Many river dykes and sea dykes have substandard designs that fail to meet the requirements of flood and storm control, especially dykes and sea embankments in the southern region.
Many reservoirs are degraded and fail to ensure safety, especially small reservoirs managed by local authorities.
In addition, residents in many localities still live along the riverbanks, in low-lying areas which are at high risk of landslides and flash floods, threatening people’s lives and property.
Over-exploitation of natural resources also contributes to the frequency of natural disasters.
What is your evaluation of the current system of natural disaster prevention and control in Việt Nam? What is the solution to mitigate the losses caused by natural disasters?
Thanks to the Party and the State and the people’s support, we have built a relatively strong system of natural disaster prevention and control in all regions of the country. However, due to the strong impact of climate change, the system still needs to be improved to deal with super typhoons.
The community’s proactive prevention and response to natural disasters is a vital solution to reduce the losses.
This year, Deputy Prime Minister Trịnh Đình Dũng, head of the Central Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control launched the National Week for natural disaster prevention and control with the aim of reducing natural disasters from the community.
It means the capacity of natural disaster prevention and control from the community needs to be boosted.
In order to do this, information, as well as response and aftermath plans, must be available to support the community.
It is very important to set up disaster response teams in the community. This is also the priority of this year.
Damage caused by natural disasters at sea has fallen in recent years. However, damage on the mainland seems to be unimproved. So what is the priority of the authorised agencies?
Based on the forecasts of the meteorological and hydrological agency and the actual response capacity of the authorised agencies, the prevention of flash floods and landslides in mountainous areas will be the top priority this year.
This type of disaster has caused great damage to people and property in recent years.
On the other hand, we must also prevent and respond effectively to river and sea erosion. On average, river bank and sea erosion takes away about 300 hectares of land annually.
What solutions does the capital city of Hà Nội need to implement to reduce losses caused by natural disasters proactively and sustainably?
In recent years, Hà Nội has spent huge resources to invest in infrastructure for natural disaster prevention and control and climate change adaptation. As a result, the level of damage caused by natural disasters has greatly decreased.
However, in my opinion, the city needs to pay more attention to non-structural measures such as early warning, evacuation planning and emergency response preparedness. VNS