In a country prone to flooding, and with a growing population (90 million plus), it is imperative for Vietnam to develop floodplain strategies which mitigate risk to life, property and infrastructure, and consequent social and economic damage.
In May, the UTS Centre for Technology in Water and Wastewater hosted delegates from Vietnamese academia, government and industry, with Australian Government support through the Australia Awards Fellowships to build capacity in Vietnamese flood management.
The Fellows participated in three weeks of diverse activities with access to specialists in government and industry as well as at UTS, demonstrating Australia’s preparation for, and response to, increasing flood activity in an era of climate change.
“We had an intense schedule at UTS, looking at theory in a classroom setting then workshopping ideas on how to better plan for flooding, how to control flooding, how to manage people during a flood and how to avoid major environmental impacts,” said Dr Vinh Nguyen, a core member of the Centre for Technology in Water and Wastewater who accompanied the Fellows on many of their activities.
These included field trips to the Hawksbury-Nepean (Warragamba Dam) and Hunter Valley, as well as small group visits to metropolitan Sydney councils for insight into strategies to improve the safety and the resilience of local communities.
“60% of the water in Vietnamese systems is from ‘outside’, with our rivers fed from China, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos. We suffer a lot of flooding, and have had an emphasis on the engineering of dykes and levees for flood management. We now need infrastructure that can cope as the country develops, and reduce impact on the entire ecosystem,” said Associate Professor Quy Nan Pham, Hanoi University of Natural Resources and Environment (HUNRE).
Like UTS, HUNRE is a young university, developing programs for training and education in water management, and its Fellows joined the program for knowledge and information about best practice, and to return with information…”not for a specific course but more generally to help with training across all academic levels of study in ground water resources and how core water systems are managed in a sustainable way,” he said.
Fellows also joined Australia’s flood professionals at the Floodplain Management Australia Conference, and contributed keynote speeches: Associate Professor Quy Nhan Pham and Ngoc Huan Tran (HUNRE) on the current status and challenges of flooding in Vietnam, and Associate Professor Thi Houng Lan Pham (Thuy Loi University) on the impacts of climate change on the Red River basin.
Mr The Hung Ngo, a consultant with Australian professional services engineering company SMEC Vietnam JSC, works mostly with clients in the government sector and with foreign developers including international NGOs and major commercial firms from the US, Europe, Japan and China.
For him, the visit to Warragamba was a high point.
“Vietnam has many dams, many of which are much larger than Warragamba. They are used for power generation and irrigation, and do not contribute to drinking water, which is of increasing low quality due to deforestation as the country industrialises,” he said.
Vietnamese agencies have more recently introduced conditions on developers which have a longer-term interest in floodplain management to improve water quality and deliver benefits to people and the natural environment.
“Currently, hydroelectricity is the second largest power source after coal, and ahead of gas and petrol; there is great interest from both local and foreign investors to develop the renewable sector, particularly solar, given the amount of sun Vietnam receives,” he said.
“Australian investment in Vietnam - unlike some of ours neighbours’ and other larger countries’ - does show greater consideration of social as well as economic factors as we continue to develop.”
Later in 2017 UTS will lead in a follow up workshop with key partners and stakeholders at Thuy Loi University (Water Resources University) to develop a Flood Risk Management Framework drawing on Sydney-based learning.
Australia Awards Fellowships are funded by the Australian Government to build capacity and strengthen partnerships between Australian organisations and partner organisations in eligible developing countries in support of key development and foreign affairs priorities. By providing short-term study, research and professional development opportunities in Australia, mid-career professionals and emerging leaders can tap into Australian expertise, gaining valuable skills and knowledge.