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[HANOI] Vietnam needs to develop more climate-resilient cities and implement policies that will limit the impact of extreme weather on urban communities, according to three studies presented at a fringe event to the two-day Vietnam Urban Forum last month (24-25 October).

The research papers recommend several policy measures to protect people’s health, livelihood and housing from the threats of rising temperature and extreme weather.

“Thirty per cent of Vietnam's population live in urban areas and [this figure] is predicted to increase. It is important to build up the resilience of people living and working in these areas,” says Diane Archer, researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), who presented the papers. The papers are supported by the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network, which is part of the overall Rockefeller Foundation Climate Change Initiative.

Because of its geographical position — Vietnam is located in the monsoon belt and has a long coastline — it is seen by climate change experts as one of the most vulnerable countries.

The government has been implementing adaptation and mitigation measures, including the crafting of a national action plan on climate change, the development of renewable energy sources, and promotion of energy efficiency.

While acknowledging that these measures are important, Archer says the aim of the IIED research is to "help ensure that vulnerable groups will not be neglected" while developing policies on climate change.

One such vulnerable sector that needs more attention is that of migrant workers in Da Nang, according to Nguyen Hoang Phuong, project manager of the NGO Center for Community Health and Development (COHED).

Phuong is a co-author of one of the papers which covers heat stress at the workplace. The paper revealed that owing to increasing temperatures, workers in Da Nang, who are mostly from Vietnam’s rural areas, suffer from serious heat exposure that can lead to heat stroke.

The workers neither have the resources nor the awareness, the paper said, to adapt to high temperatures. Phuong suggests that both workers and employers be made aware of symptoms and treatment of heat stroke. Also, employers should provide protective measures and equipment like sunglasses and hats, while local officials need to include tree planting and construction of public toilets in their urban planning, Phuong says.

The second research paper cited the need for the government to finance the restoration of mangrove forests around Thi Nai lagoon in Quy Nhon City. Mangroves can protect people and property from storm surges and coastal floods and also provide other benefits such as increased fish catches, fuel wood and income opportunities from ecotourism, the paper says.

The third study focused on climate-resilient housing and identified reasons why low-income communities in Hue and Da Nang lack housing that can withstand climatic disasters. Construction companies ignore this sector due to the high costs involved, the researchers found. They propose that the government subsidises climate resilient housing and develop policies to regulate building in hazard-prone areas.

Pham Thi Hong, COHED's policy advocacy coordinator and one of the participants in the forum, says that the papers were well received by the participants. She adds that NGOs like COHED and IIED are working with the government and private companies so that their recommendations can be implemented.
Link to full paper

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net’s South-East Asia & Pacific desk.