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  Enviroment Research & Protection

Building early warning systems a top priority

Upgrading a dyke section in Hung Yen province

Sixty years ago Vietnam faced a catastrophic historic flooding. This year, many people are worried about the periodical return of this natural calamity. Le Huy Ngo, head of the Central Steering Committee for Flood and Storm Control granted an interview to media workers following the recent Asia consultation conference on natural disasters in Hanoi.

Reporters: Could you make a brief summary of upgrade work on the dyke systems in the northern region to cope with the upcoming flooding season? The public is wondering whether this year Vietnam is likely to face the historic breaking of the dyke system 60 years ago?

Mr Ngo: In recent yeas, we have consolidated and reinforced the dykes along such major rivers as the Hong (Red) and the Thai Binh in the northern region, and those in Thanh Hoa, Ha Tinh and Nghe An provinces in the central region. These dyke systems were put to the test during the historic flooding in 1996. Since then they had few chances to undergo powerful flooding in the northern region. However, we should be always on alert. We made lists of strategically important dyke sections as well as rescue force and rescue equipment to cope with any disasters in case they occur. Big losses can be avoided if we detect and brace ourselves for the incident early.

Currently, rescue equipment is much more modern than in the past. Now we can use big containers, high-quality nylon bags and special cloths to prevent floodwaters from encroaching. But what I want to emphasise is that all incidents must be detected early so that we can deal with them instantly. From now on this early warning system should be put into practice, along with regular inspection and monitoring. Warning posts should be erected at strategically important dyke sections so that passers-by can detect and avoid abnormal phenomena. To do this, it is necessary to raise regular public awareness about natural disasters. I think it is an effective solution. With these thorough preparations, I believe we can cope with any natural disasters when they occur.

Reporters: At the recent Asian consultation conference on natural disasters in Hanoi, many delegates proposed that natural disaster control and mitigation strategies should be closely linked to economic development strategies. What do you think about the initiative?

Mr Ngo: This is a new issue. For a long time they have thought of sustainable growth and development, particularly for the poor. When natural disasters occur, the poor is the most vulnerable group. Therefore, when devising natural disaster control and mitigation strategies, growth must be linked to sustainability and hunger and poverty reduction. In Vietnam, this combination can be seen in marine tourism. In recent years, the tourism sector has developed rapidly with an annual average growth of 17-18 percent, and marine tourism has made a significant contribution to the sector’s growth. However, marine tourism is often confronted with risks, storms, earthquakes and tsunamis. Therefore, when zoning areas for marine tourism, policy makers should take into account the sustainable factor, possible occurrence of earthquakes and tsunamis, and the development of protective forests and sand dunes.

Reporters: What did Vietnam learn from foreign countries’ experiences at the conference?

Mr Ngo: Foreign countries expressed their keen interest in exchanging and sharing experiences in natural disaster prevention and control. It is particularly useful for countries in Southeast Asia because they experience similar natural disasters. They stressed the need to co-operate and build early warning systems, especially for tsunamis because this natural disaster requires high technologies, both under the seabed and in the sky. Vietnam has registered to join this system. Countries agreed to share information and provide mutual assistance when natural disasters occur. They also agreed to enhance personnel training to cope with any disasters. From last year’s tsunamis in Southeast Asia, Vietnam is paying special attention to the zoning of tourist resorts, especially those for marine tourism services, housing structure near the sea, and protection of the natural environment.

Vietnam wishes to share information and experiences with foreign countries in building early warning systems for natural disasters, raising public awareness about these systems and enhancing the capacity building of management agencies. In turn, Vietnam will introduce its experience in overcoming natural disasters.

Reporters: Thank you very much.

VOV - (23/05/2005)

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