Viet Nam stands as one of the most disaster-prone countries in the ASEAN region, with over 70% of its dense population (almost 100 million people) often facing the adverse impacts of disaster – in particular due to hydrological events. Viet Nam’s geographical layout, population distribution, increased urbanisation and high numbers of vulnerable populations create a context for potential high-impact events within the nation’s borders, while climate change is also noted as having an increasing influence on the extremity of natural disasters in Viet Nam.
Viet Nam’s central and southern regions are particularly vulnerable to natural disaster events; however, its diverse landscape and topography ensure that all parts of the country are at high risk of natural disaster. The country is formed by mountainous areas, river deltas, highlands, islands and over 3,000km of coastline, with its tropical location causing monsoons, storms, floods and other events to strike the nation on a yearly basis. Viet Nam experiences both the northeast and southeast monsoon-winds, with its geographic layout meaning the nation is home two distinct climatic regions. All regions face extremely high rainfall levels, accentuated by a large system or rivers and deltas, resulting in ongoing vulnerability to flooding and other hydrological disasters.
Due to high rainfall, extreme weather occurrences, as well as the vast array of river and deltas across the nation, flood is one of the major types of disaster that affects Viet Nam’s population. The Northern river systems and basins account for over 75% of the north’s land area, resulting in multiple flooding events each year. Meanwhile in the Mekong river delta, floods are often generated from upstream events, resulting in inundation of the delta for months at a time. These events can have a severe impact on river-based communities – often threatening the lives, homes and livelihoods of the people who inhabit the river banks. Flash floods and mud floods also have great impact on mountain-based communities, caused by heavy rains and bad drainage systems. Such floods often strike communities across all four mountainous areas of Viet Nam, namely the north, central, central highlands and south-eastern regions.
Due to its location north-west of the Pacific Ocean, Viet Nam is one of the most storm-prone land masses in the world. Numbers of violent typhoons have continued to increase over recent decades, with the nation experiencing 10 to 15 typhoon events on average each year, historically affecting all geographic regions of Viet Nam. It is estimated that typhoons impact over 70% of Viet Nam’s population, with not only the initial storm, but the following heavy rains and floods also having an adverse effect on the nation’s communities.
LANDSLIDE AND EROSION
Landslide and erosion are also a common occurrence in Viet Nam, causing considerable losses to homes and agricultural land across the nation. Various natural and human activities cause such events, resulting in erosion to river banks, coastal areas, and multitudes of landslides on mountains and hillsides.
Viet Nam also experiences a range of other natural disasters across its landscapes, which although may pose limited short-term risk to human life, have an extensive impact on infrastructure, services and livelihoods within communities. Issues related to inundation are common, as are the impacts of drought and desertification. Cyclones are also an ongoing phenomenon, increasing in frequency with a changing climate.
Written by : William Shea
All information sourced from ‘Viet Nam Disaster Management Reference Handbook: 2015’, as developed by the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (CFE-DM).