Vietnam impacted by widening weather extremes: Minister

Extreme weather conditions are becoming more common regionally and globally and have greatly affected Vietnam, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha told lawmakers in Hanoi on November 5.

Responding to legislators’ concerns about the storms, floods, and landslides that have hit the central region since mid-October, Ha explained that a combination of different extreme weather conditions is at play.

Four subsequent storms, including Storm Molave, the strongest in 20 years, and a prolonged low-pressure system together triggered historic rainfall, with Quang Nam province recording in excess of 500 mm a day and other areas 2,000-4,000 mm in a short period of time.

Landslide-hit areas in Thua Thien-Hue, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, and Quang Nam provinces, meanwhile, are all at an altitude of 300-900 metres above the sea level and are on sloping terrain and geological faults that have moved recently.

These factors, added with incessant downpours, led to a high risk of landslides, the minister noted.

Regarding forest coverage in the central region, he said that changing forest use purposes is inevitable since the country will need more space for urban development as its population passes 100 million.

However, Ha added, such changes need to take into account key forest areas, like protection, special-use, and natural forests.

Affirming that small-scale hydropower plants are not to blame for recent landslides, he said: “It is our fault that the benefits, effectiveness, and technology at these plants haven’t been analysed.”

Power generation can live in harmony with nature, the minister said.

Since late September, 235 people in the central region have been listed as dead or missing from storms and floods, which have also caused estimated economic losses of about 17 trillion VND, according to a Government report to the National Assembly on November 2.