Mekong Delta adaptation and urban resilience among key topics at the 4th Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum

Two major climate adaptation issues relating to the Mekong Region – coastal delta vulnerability and urban resilience – were among the topics highlighted at the 4th Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum in Kuala Lumpur (1-3 October), one of the biggest climate adaptation events in Asia.

The 4th Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum aims to assist participants from all levels of government, business and other sectors of society to become effective in addressing the development challenges in a changing climate. The Forum seeks to do this through critical reflection on the roles of actors involved and how new partnerships for resilient development can be secured.

More than 500 speakers and panelists including adaptation practitioners and a range of representatives from academia, civil society, UN, ADB, World Bank, and the private sector attended the 3-day Forum.

The Mekong Delta in Vietnam has been facing a growing intensity of storms and floods. Strengthening coastal resilience is key to addressing the climate impacts esopecially given that the Delta has a high population density.

The local adaptation efforts in the delta in the community-based mangrove regeneration project in Da Loc commune were described by Nguyen Anh Minh from Care International. Located in the east coast of the Thanh Hoa province in the Mekong Delta, Da Loc is one of six coastal communes that is highly vulnerable to salinity intrusion, sea level rise, storm surges, and drought.

“The mangroves regeneration project has aimed to build community resilience. It also shows the potential for adaptation activities and mitigation goals to be mutually reinforced,” said Nguyen Anh Minh.

The impacts of climate change on the Mekong Delta’s fisheries livelihoods are of major concern since the fisheries are a major source of protein and economic benefit for hundreds of coastal communities.

More recently, aquaculture production has been expanding in the delta; Vietnam plans to expand the area for aquaculture in the Cuu Long (Mekong) River Delta to 830,000 hectares, yielding nearly 3 million tonnes per year by 2015, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. However, production of inland aquaculture in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Thailand remains less important compared to capture fisheries.

The project on “adaptation, aquaculture and fisheries” was presented by Ngo Cong Chinh, MPA, Deputy Director of Asian Management and Development Institute (AMDI) in Vietnam, who is a former SUMERNET partner.

Undertaken by the USAID Mekong Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change Project (USAID Mekong ARCC Project), the project aims to increase local capacity to develop and implement climate change adaptation (CCA) plans and strategies.

Ngo Cong Chinh described the case study areas in coastal Vietnam as comprising a landscape of aquaculture ponds, rice paddies, canals and road networks. The coastal households typically engage in a livelihood mix of rice farming and aquaculture (shrimp and blood cockle that have good economic value).

The farmers already have a few adaptation and coping measures such as the shrimp-rice rotation model, monitor weather conditions before stocking baby shrimp, diggingditches along the pond to create a low temperature area, etc. “People need newer livelihood options for adaptation efforts to work,” said Ngo Cong Chinh.

Urban resilience was another topic highlighted at the Forum. Urban areas in the Mekong Region are rapidly expanding with urban growth in the next 50-100 years expected to be along small and medium-sized cities and peri-urban areas. Many of these areas are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

But the concept of “urban development” is typically not so well-articulated or implemented leading to worsening environmental problems. For example, the draining of wetlands for construction of infrastructure is exacerbating urban flood problems.

“We need to better understand the link between land and investment, and how we engage in urbanisation. Land-use planning is often a secretive exercise where land-uses are reconfigured by developer agendas. We need to shape the debates around urban development and infrastructure,” said Richard Friend,  senior staff scientist of Institute for Social and Environmental Transition-International (ISET-International). 

Friend was presenting his research in the project “Building Urban Climate Resilience: Reflections from Mekong-Building Climate Resilience in Asian Cities (M-BRACE).

SUMERNET researchers completed a study in 2012 of the perceived impact of urbanization in two urban centers, one in Thailand and the other in Lao PDR under the project titled “Impact of urban expansion on rural hinterland and local responses in the Mekong Region: A study in Khon Kaen, Thailand, and Vang Vieng, Lao PDR.”

The Adaptation Forums have been co-organised by the Asia Pacific Adaptation Network (APAN) since 2010.  APAN is a regional programme for applying adaptation knowledge in Asia, and helps to support governments and other actors working on adaptation, with special emphasis on knowledge management and capacity building. The mission of APAN is “to build climate change resilient and sustainable human systems, ecosystems and economies through the mobilisation of knowledge, enhanced institutional capacity and informed decisions making processes, and facilitated access to finance and technologies”.

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