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APEC tackles flooding due to climate change

DA NANG, July 29 — Members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) should unite to reduce the increasing threats of abnormal floods from climate change, a workshop was told yesterday in the central coastal city of Da Nang.

"For many member economies, abnormal floods pose the most severe natural threats and the situation has became worse as the result of climate change – one of the biggest human threats to humanity in 21st century," said Nguyen Nguyet Nga, director general of the Department of Multilateral Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Nga referred to severe floods in Taiwan in 2009, in the Philippines, mainland China and Viet Nam in 2010, and in Australia and Indonesia early this year.

"We hope APEC member economies, together with relevant international and regional organizations, will not only share information and experiences but also discuss how best to work together," said Nga.

The two-day workshop, themed "Facing abnormal flood disasters: New vision for APEC economies", was the first APEC activity focusing on flood mitigation and management.

Delegates focused on assessing floods in APEC members in the recent years, best practices on responding to abnormal flood disaster, emergency preparedness and early warning methods.

They also drew a new vision about strengthening community responses in facing floods.

According to Dao Xuan Hoc, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, during the last 10 years, up to seven typhoons affected Viet Nam annually, killing about 450 people each year – mostly in floods.

Meanwhile, economic losses per year from natural disasters are estimated at between 1.2-1.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.

Hoc attributed the increase in floods to climate change and global warming, which was boosting annual rainfall everywhere in Viet Nam.

Upstream deforestation was said to make river flooding much worse.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Viet Nam has witnessed many floods in the past decade, including the November 1999 flood in the Central region, which was the most severe in more than 100 years.

Another flood in November 2008 in Ha Noi and 17 provinces killed 84 people and caused US$ 316 million in damage.

Viet Nam is forecast to be one of the countries most vulnerable to rises in sea levels.

According to the worst scenario from the Government's recent Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Scenarios for Viet Nam, by 2100, if sea level rises by 1 metre, about 40 per cent of the Mekong river delta and three per cent of coastal provinces could be affected.

In addition, 20 per cent area of the country's biggest economic hub, HCM City, could be submerged. Flooding in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta could last for up to four months a year.

While praising Viet Nam's initiative to hold the workshop, APEC Secretariat executive director Muhamad Noor Yacob said the organisation pledged to continue funding projects on early warning of natural disasters, prevention, and preparedness. (PNA/VNS)

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