Mangroves to defend farms

Mangroves to defend farms

18 April 2008

A $120m plan to boost mangrove forests may help combat the effects of climate-change.

HA NOI — A programme to recover mangrove forests throughout Viet Nam as part of a larger plan to cope with the increasing impacts of climate change on the farming sector will cost the country as much as VND1.9 trillion (US$120 million) by 2015.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Dao Xuan Hoc said the programme would be carried out soon, under an Action Plan that hoped to forecast and diminish the effects of climate change on the farming industry.

Initial project results will be used as a foundation for the ministry to work out comprehensive policies and strategies to deal with long-term climate change effects.

Doctor Phan Nguyen Hong, from the Viet Nam Mangrove Forest Ecological System Research Centre, said that mangrove recovery was important in dealing with frequent tidal surges, which are caused by climate change.

Natural mangrove forests and other wave-resistant trees, if protected, could act as walls against tidal surges, Hong said. The mangroves’ interlacing roots could also block surging tides from hitting the man-made dyke systems.

Mangrove forests also provide shelter for a range of species, such as snails and small crabs, and as such could help maintain ecological diversity, Hong added.

The last few years have seen Viet Nam’s efforts in dealing with climate change in the many agreements the nation has signed, such as the Kyoto Protocol, whose objective was to reduce Greenhouse gases that cause climate change, and the 2005 – 2015 Hyogo Framework for Action, which aided disaster reduction policy in Asian countries.

Viet Nam has also established the environmental police. In the latest move, the Vietnamese Government approved the National Strategy for Natural Disaster Prevention, Response and Mitigation last November.

The deputy director of the Science, Technology and Environment Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nguyen Binh Thin, said that the ministry had taken climate change seriously, and various projects dealing with its impacts were underway.

The ministry was also looking for more support and assistance from international donors and non-governmental organisations to better deal with the climate change impacts on the farming sector, which is the backbone of Viet Nam’s national economy.

Thin said that the agriculture ministry was helping farmers to adjust their crop times to suit the changing weather. For example, more diverse crops – some of which require less water than others – would work better in areas lacking water sources. The ministry also encouraged farmers to use stronger crop seeds that could survive under harsh conditions, such as drought-hit, salinated or insects-struck areas.

The General Statistics Office (GSO) reported that natural disasters in 2007 killed 435 people and cost the nation VND11.6 trillion ($725million), or 1 per cent of the GDP.

It has been forecast that global warming would trigger more natural disasters with increased damage capabilities to many countries worldwide, including Viet Nam, from now on till 2050.

The World Bank said that Viet Nam, endowed with more than 3200km of coastline and two large deltas, the Hong and Cuu Long (Mekong Delta), was one of the five nations hardest hit by climate change. If the sea level rose by five meters, Viet Nam would lose 16 per cent of its land, which would then threaten the lives of 35 per cent of the population.

Poor people would be most vulnerable to these disasters, the World Bank said.

According to the agriculture ministry, drought has plagued the farming sector for the past 10 years, causing huge damages to both humans and property, especially in the Central Highlands. Damages to the farming industry following the drought spell between late 1997 and early 1998, for example, were worth up to VND1.4trillion ($87.5 million).

Drought has dried up many water resources, and low levels in the Hong (Red) River – the biggest river in northern Viet Nam – has caused severe water shortages for farmers over the last five years. — VNS

Source: Vietnam