Vietnam implementing mapping system to warn of natural calamities

Both the government and locals are working with the US Agency for International Development on a project to map out potential disaster-prone areas, so that the communities can be better prepared to face calamities in future.

HANOI (Viet Nam News/ANN) - Vietnam is among the five countries most affected by the high rates of natural calamities in the world and has experienced great loss of human life and property, according to the Asian fund for the prevention and fight against natural calamities.

To address the problem, the ministry of natural resources and environment has directed related agencies to build a system of maps warning of natural calamities and to issue these maps to areas in provinces and cities that are commonly affected by floods, whirlwinds, landslides and dangerous cold snaps.

Based on these maps with a scale of 1/50,000, natural calamity preparedness offices of these districts have implemented measures at relevant communes.

Along with this official system, another map system has been implemented by the local people, according to the website of the Centre for Preventing and Reducing Natural Calamity.

“Locals have identified dangerous areas on the local maps that could experience flash floods or ways to escape a severe storm,” said the centre’s director Nguyen Huu Phuc.

Prominent among the affected provinces is the northern province of Nam Dinh, based on maps drawn by the community to deal with natural calamities.

Nguyen Cong Chuc, head of a project funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), said building maps at the community level was important to define long-term plans to prevent and fight natural calamities in the locality.

"The map localises concrete areas and evaluates locations that could be affected by floods and storms or provide a safe shelter for people. The most interesting thing about the maps is that they are created by the locals, so they are very concrete and understandable since they have had experience of the spot," said Chuc.

Pham Thi Sang in Nam Dinh’s Truc Dinh Commune said she and her neighbours were trained to know the harm caused by floods, so they were excited to join in drawing a map as they are well-versed with the roads to safe places to escape storms and floods. 

"We place importance in this because it directly affects our lives," she said.

Sang said she was thankful for being trained as many locals have changed their habits by serving rice and money as ways to take care of the elderly and disabled during the flood season.

Sang’s neighbour Le Van Tuoi, 68, is a good consultant to agencies in charge of drawing a map in the most correct way.

Currently, USAID has supported Nam Dinh’s 24 communes to build maps while setting up community-based groups to deal with natural calamities. The project has also supplied rescue equipment to be used during times of calamity and guides local people to strengthen their houses for safety and to think ahead of how to deal with natural calamities that could occur.

Do Ngoc Huynh, chairman of the Giao Hai Commune in Hai Hau District, said his commune strictly carried out training on how to prevent and fight against calamity.

The local authorities in charge have been preparing 'four works on the spot' training, such as being able to ready forces, rescue materials, equipment and logistics on the spot quickly.

As a result, the coastal commune of Giao Hai faced very few losses caused by Mirinae, the first storm of 2016, compared to the other communes due to the careful preparations they had made in advance.

Nguyen Quoc Thanh of the Geology Institute, who is in charge of creating the maps warning of potential natural calamities, said the maps helped the inhabitants and local authorities know about and prevent losses caused by natural calamities.

According to this map, the north-western province of Lao Cai has 534 areas prone to landslides. What is more important is that there has already been a small landslide on the side of a mountain top in Nam Bat Hamlet of Tan Tien, but the map shows that the cracked mountain is expected to bring a much greater disaster.

The institute has built maps of especially dangerous areas in the provinces of Yen Bai, Lao Cai, Lai Chau, Lao Cai and Dien Bien.

It is expected that the detailed maps will be finished by 2020, he said.

The north-western province of Son La often faces severe flash floods and landslides that have badly affected its economic development and caused great losses to local property and lives.

To deal with the problem, the province has applied GIS, a combination of IT and map technology, to build a map system that warns of flash floods and landslides over the entire province, and authorities can use these maps to build a long-term strategy for natural calamity preparedness, said Thanh.

Meanwhile, departments of natural calamity prevention in the central and southern regions have delivered maps and trained locals on how to deal with floods due to sea level rises in the provinces of Ninh Thuan, Khanh Hoa, Binh Thuan, Phu Yen, Dong Thap and Tien Giang.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha says, "The maps have helped to define dangerous areas and those that are being threatened with landslides that could affect inhabitants, transport and local economic development. The data in the maps are very important to implement measure for the prevention and reduction of losses caused by landslides during floods and storms in Vietnam’s mountainous areas."

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