11/23/2020, 15.41
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Deforestation and greater risk of flooding set off environmental alarms in Vietnam

by Nguyn Hung

The recent, devastating floods highlight the fragility of the country's natural environment. Deforestation, expanded farming, timber harvesting, and hydroelectric dams are the main culprits. In four years, 7,300 hectares of forest have been lost. So far, about 800 large, medium and small plants have been built with another 450 on their way.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Recent floods in Vietnam caused by typhoons and tropical storms have had a devastating impact in terms of lost human lives, environmental damage, and economic dislocations, highlighting the fragility of the Asian country's environment.

Frequent and violent weather events worry both environmentalists and the affected communities more and more.

According to Vietnam’s Forest Inventory and Planning Institute, the main factor is deforestation and the conversion of entire forests to farmland, timber harvesting, and the large dam and hydroelectric plant construction.

Among the most affected areas are the central coastal region and the central Highlands, scene of the recent devastations.

The General Department of Natural Disaster Prevention and Control estimates that some 7,300 hectares of forest land were lost between 2016 and 2019, with an annual average of 1,800.

At the current rate of deforestation, if nothing is done to slow this down, the risk of floods and landslides will increase considerably, along with periods of drought and loss of mangroves.

Environmentalists and experts note that the life and survival of Highland communities are closely linked to local forests.

From the central part of the country to the Mekong River Delta in the south, forests play a leading role in regulating local ecosystems, biodiversity, water resources, and the climate of much of the country.

For Prof Nguyễn Ngọc Lung, forests are key to blocking winds, limiting soil erosion and containing the devastating force of storms. In addition, tree roots absorb excess water.

Deforestation contributes to climate change, global warming, drought, rising water levels, pollution, and famine.

In view of the situation, the General Department of Natural Disaster Prevention and Control is sounding the alarm, noting that the country has recently had to face between 10 and 15 floods.

The blame goes to extensive “legal and illegal” deforestation to expand farmland, harvest timber or build crucial hydro-electric plants to meet the country’s energy needs.

So far, about 800 large, medium and small plants have been built and another 450 are in the planning phase with further devastating impact on the environment.

Some see these plants as "water bombs" ready to strike at the population. Their effects are visible in many parts of the country, including Da Lat, a city that is located about 1,500 metres above sea level and a major tourist destination, with its almost year-round cool and temperate climate.

Since 2012, the city has been hit by flooding with increasing frequency, to the extent that today, when rain is intense, many parts of the city and Lam Dong province "end up submerged by water".

A Da Lat resident bitterly comments that floods do not spare even the rich, so that "even residential and posh areas where the Golf Club is located are flooded".

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