Nguyễn Thị Yến, CARE International in Vietnam
After the third Shared Learning Dialogue (SLD) in September 2017, the fourth SLD was organized by ISET, the Coordination Board for Integrated Management of the Vu Gia – Thu Bon river basin and coastal areas of Quang Nam and Da Nang and CARE International in Vietnam on January 19, 2018 in Dien Ban district of Quang Nam.
In the earlier workshop, CARE and community representatives had presented an assessment of flood and drought risks at the community level, especially in relation to early warning and hydropower reservoir regulation. Recent storm and flood events had further emphasized the significance of these issues. Therefore, the selected theme for SLD4 was Early flood warning and hydropower reservoir regulation – A community-level perspective.
Through this workshop, the organizers expect to contribute to improving the effectiveness of flood release warning by promoting the participation of hydropower reservoir Management Board, local governments across levels, disaster prevention and control agencies across levels, and representatives from the communities in surveyed/affected communes. The followed-up discussions cover the channels of warning information, minimum advance warning time, message content, information on yearly release schedules, and roles of various stakeholders.
According to Mr. Le Tri Thanh, Vice Chairman of the People’s Committee of Quang Nam Province, the voice of community members is extremely important because they are the people most directly affected by floods and droughts. On behalf of the Da Nang’s leadership, Mr. Ho Ky Minh, Vice Chairman of the city’s People’s Committee expressed agreement to this point and shared that, according to public contribution policy, hydropower companies need to further enhance the effectiveness of community information delivery. “Information on hydropower reservoir release is still not easy enough to understand, even for government staff, not to mention for local people,” stated Mr. Minh.
The above statements by leaders of the two municipalities provided an overview of the role of early warning to communities downstream of the Vu Gia – Thu Bon about reservoir release and water regulation plan of hydropower plants. Representing the communities at the workshop, Mrs. Phan Thi My Nu from La Chau village, Hoa Khuong commune of Da Nang, emphasized that although the communities do receive the above information, they still suffer major losses in property, livestock and crops because the releases often occur during the night and put people in a reactive position. “Moreover, the information is neither clear nor specific, regarding how much water is released, how much flood is expected, so people don’t know how to respond and are unalarmed,” said Mrs. Nu.
According to the presentations by the Steering Committees for Natural Disaster Prevention of Da Nang and Quang Nam, hydropower reservoir owners and local governments had collaborated in various measures to deliver warnings to the communities. For example, in Quang Nam, warnings are delivered using document dispatches, loudspeakers, radio, direct dialogues, flood mapping activities, and information update on the provincial website. In Da Nang, in addition to mass media channels such as TV and radio, the Office of the Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention also sends SMS messages to leaders of local governments and departments across levels. To further improve early warning, the Steering Committee in Da Nang proposed more use of social network channels such as Facebook and Zalo, and requested the hydropower plants upstream of the Vu Gia – Thu Bon to provide information on water level, precipitation and water releases via SMS messages to people living downstream in Da Nang.
In this workshop, CARE had a presentation on the current situation of early warning of flooding and hydropower reservoir releases in the five surveyed communes, as well as the challenges and gaps in the governance. The early warning system has not satisfied communities’ expectation regarding the time, channels and contents of warning information. CARE also offered several recommendations to the hydropower plants, governments across levels, the hydro-meteorological monitoring station and the inter-provincial Coordination Board to improve the early warning so that communities, especially vulnerable groups including women, can receive timely and easy-to-understand warning information and respond more effectively to all the more unpredictable floods and droughts in Quang Nam and Da Nang.
Mr. Minh and Mr. Thanh agreed on the conclusion of the workshop that the priority of Da Nang and Quang Nam in the coming period will be to improve disaster forecasting, warning and prevention for downstream areas; to collaborate on the assessment and flood mapping for Dien Ban and Dai Loc districts of Quang Nam and Hoa Vang district of Da Nang; to install two more major monitoring stations together with several more smaller ones in the river basin; to mobilize public information funds for the early warning work; and to work with international organizations to construct the contents of warnings to disaster responders and local people. Moreover, community awareness raising on disaster prevention will also be a focus activity.
The series of Shared Learning Dialogues are under the project on River Basin Cross-Border Flood Resilience Support Platform in the Vu Gia – Thu Bon river basin in Quang Nam and Da Nang, supported by the Global Resilience Partnership. The project, led by ISET with the support of CARE International in Vietnam since 2017, applies a river-basin integrated approach to support data analysis and promote dialogue between stakeholders to help alleviate flood risks in these areas.