Sea-level rise and resilience in Vietnam and the Asia-Pacific: A synthesis

Luc Hens, Nguyen An Thinh, Tran Hong Hanh, Ngo Sy Cuong, Tran Dinh Lan, Nguyen Van Thanh, Dang Thanh Le


Climate change induced sea-level rise (SLR) is on its increase globally. Regionally the lowlands of China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and islands of the Malaysian, Indonesian and Philippine archipelagos are among the world’s most threatened regions. Sea-level rise has major impacts on the ecosystems and society. It threatens coastal populations, economic activities, and fragile ecosystems as mangroves, coastal salt-marches and wetlands. This paper provides a summary of the current state of knowledge of sea level-rise and its effects on both human and natural ecosystems. The focus is on coastal urban areas and low lying deltas in South-East Asia and Vietnam, as one of the most threatened areas in the world. About 3 mm per year reflects the growing consensus on the average SLR worldwide. The trend speeds up during recent decades. The figures are subject to local, temporal and methodological variation. In Vietnam the average values of 3.3 mm per year during the 1993-2014 period are above the worldwide average. Although a basic conceptual understanding exists that the increasing global frequency of the strongest tropical cyclones is related with the increasing temperature and SLR, this relationship is insufficiently understood. Moreover the precise, complex environmental, economic, social, and health impacts are currently unclear. SLR, storms and changing precipitation patterns increase flood risks, in particular in urban areas. Part of the current scientific debate is on how urban agglomeration can be made more resilient to flood risks. Where originally mainly technical interventions dominated this discussion, it becomes increasingly clear that proactive special planning, flood defense, flood risk mitigation, flood preparation, and flood recovery are important, but costly instruments. Next to the main focus on SLR and its effects on resilience, the paper reviews main SLR associated impacts: Floods and inundation, salinization, shoreline change, and effects on mangroves and wetlands. The hazards of SLR related floods increase fastest in urban areas. This is related with both the increasing surface major cities are expected to occupy during the decades to come and the increasing coastal population. In particular Asia and its megacities in the southern part of the continent are increasingly at risk. The discussion points to complexity, inter-disciplinarity, and the related uncertainty, as core characteristics. An integrated combination of mitigation, adaptation and resilience measures is currently considered as the most indicated way to resist SLR today and in the near future.


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sea-level rise; coastal zone; hazard; resilience Vietnam; SE-Asia


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