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UNDP Resident Representative: 55% of Mekong Delta population affected by climate change by 2100

VGP - It is estimated that 40% of the Mekong Delta would be submerged by the year 2100 in which 55% of the local population will be directly affected, said UNDP Resident Representative in Viet Nam Caitlin Wiesen.

March 09, 2021 4:40 PM GMT+7

UNDP Resident Representative in Viet Nam Caitlin Wiesen

The Resident Representative made the point in an interview with the VGP regarding the seriousness level of climate change in the Mekong Delta.

Ms. Caitlin Wiesen stressed that the Mekong Delta is certainly one of the most important regions in Viet Nam. It is home to 17 million people, serving as the largest agricultural production center within Viet Nam. It is vital for food security in Viet Nam, not only Viet Nam but also neighboring countries within the region and beyond as well.

However, it is one of the most vulnerable regions coping with climate change in Viet Nam in terms of saltwater intrusion, cyclones, floods, droughts, and sea level rises. It is estimated that 40% of the Mekong Delta would be submerged by the year 2100, affecting 55% of the local population.

Private sector plays critical role in climate change adaption

When asked about her comment on the measures taken so far by the Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to help the Mekong Delta overcome negative impacts of climate change, she asserted that the UNDP would really like to commend Prime Minister Phuc and the Government of Viet Nam for the leadership, policies, and investment.

She spoke highly of important policies that have been introduced, including Resolution No.120 and that focuses on the sustainable climate resilient development of the Mekong Delta. 

In 2020, the Government established the Mekong Delta Coordinating Council, responsible for handling complex governance issues within the Mekong Delta, she added.

Earlier, in 2013, the first plan for development for the Mekong Delta was introduced. The plan has been updated into a master plan for the sustainable and resilient development of the Mekong Delta in the 2021-2030 period. 

In terms of recommendations in terms of moving forward for the Vietnamese Government in handling with consequences of climate change, she highlighted the importance of looking at integrated planning and governance. “It is important to look at resources not from one district or one region within the Delta but how they are engaged together” the Resident Representative stressed. 

She suggested making maximum use of all the resources available, the natural resources that are available to help manage the risks and also the development potentials. 

Caitlin Wiesen referred to development risks, adding that as climate patterns are changing the impacts on the Delta, all development risks should be taken into account in different dimensions. These are vulnerability mapping and risk mapping. And this is especially important that this data is accurate and up-to-date, and taking into account latest developments. 

She confirmed that community engagement is extremely important. Communities are on in the front lines. They're the first ones that are often hidden, impacted by climate change and they need to be included, engaged and participate in the planning, particularly the development of the master plan for the Mekong Delta for the next period. 

Similarly, the private sector plays a critical role, and it's very important that the private sector is consulted and engaged in the development of the plan that we can't development master plan, and according to a study that was undertaken and this was undertaken by UNDP together with German Development Cooperation (GIZ) and the Ministry of Planning and Investment. 

“There is estimated that there is a private sector could invest upwards of US$32 billion in the Mekong Delta across a range of areas. These range from renewable energy to agriculture to agriculture, food processing and other areas. However, there needs to be engagement with them to enable that investment in the way that's going to facilitate private sector development and also benefit local populations. So these I think are extremely important”, said Caitlin Wiesen.

The UNDP Resident Representative stressed the need to promote innovation, and there's a great opportunity to look at innovation and how smart agriculture can be can use the different tools, Industry 4.0 tools, AI, and others that are available for the production that can benefit local populations at the same time being more green, more sustainable and resilient. 

The Mekong Delta is home to 17 million people, serving as the largest agricultural production center within Viet Nam.

Achievements gained in model of cooperation between VN, UNDP

UNDP has been honored and privileged to be working together with the government, with development partners, NGOs and local populations to address the challenges within the Mekong Delta, said Caitlin Wiesen, adding that their support has had quite a range and one of the ways in which they engage is looking at finding innovative climate change adaptation solutions that benefit the people and local population and local businesses within the Mekong Delta. 

The UNDP has also undertaken a number of analytical studies and these analytical studies look at hydrological, mapping and forecasting and integrated water retention planning. 

She stated that important planning dimensions that the UNDP has been engaged in the analysis to help perform that process in terms of disaster management and because it is such a vulnerable and disaster prone region, UNDP's work very closely with the Viet Nam Disaster Management Authority (VNDMA), and in 2016 and most recently in 2020 to address the impacts of saltwater intrusion and severe drought, historic proportions in 2020. 

The UNDP has provided support in the provision of water tanks and drinking water, also water for agriculture to over 6000 households in the Mekong Delta as well as provide livelihood support and livelihood support to over 300,000 persons that were actually impacted and 23,000 persons who were actually supported with livelihood support by UNDP. 

Particularly, the UNDP has been involved over the last years and restoration and rehabilitation of mangrove by generating some 3000 hectares which are absolutely vital as they protect communities, local livelihoods and local business from storm surge. 

The UNDP has also supported the livelihoods of numbers of people for livelihood support that's integrated together with mangrove restoration as well. 

“As we're looking at the long term policy support and in terms of long term policy support, we need to continually update and look at the vulnerability mapping together with the hydrological mapping and look at the balances that need to be created between water retention on the one hand, flood management on the other, in ways that provide integrated solutions that work across the different entities”, the UNDP Resident Representative in Viet Nam emphasized.

She expressed her belief that together with the government and the other and other partners and NGOs, local population and private sector, the UNDP can make a significant difference if having coordinated efforts together with a strengthened regional governance system so that the UNDP can better balance the natural resource endowments of some districts and regions within the Mekong Delta in managing the risks as well. 

And together, this could have a significant impact not just for the Mekong Delta, but for the overall sustainable development of Viet Nam, the country, the food security of its people, and people within the region. 

UNDP’s future plan for Mekong Delta

The UNDP is also engaging very closely together with local communities and provincial level government and partners to strengthen regional governance, which is one of the most important ways of improving this situation, the sustainable development of the Mekong Delta. 

She mentioned to more innovative ways of engaging with the private sector, looking at climate smart technologies, integrating these with agriculture and ensuring the tracking and production of small medium enterprises and their businesses in ways that show that there's a clean and green supply chain. 

One that's going to be more green, clean will have greater economic returns to the micro small and medium enterprises and their businesses. 

The area the UNDP is focused on is looking at unleashing innovative resourcing for micro small and medium enterprises, she said, adding that this is very important if the development of the Mekong Delta and its future is to be sustainable and inclusive.

It is ensured that those people who are on the front lines of climate change adaptation and its impacts of climate change are going to benefit from the future that is designed and developed within the context of the new master plan for the Mekong Delta from 2021 to 2030. 

By Thanh Thuy-Thuy Dung