Potential Climate Change Impacts and Viet Nam's Key Environmental Issues

By England, Sarah | Journal of Business Administration, Annual 1994 | Go to article overview

Potential Climate Change Impacts and Viet Nam's Key Environmental Issues


England, Sarah, Journal of Business Administration


INTRODUCTION

There has been a proliferation of "grey literature" (i.e. mostly not peer reviewed or published) on the environment in Viet Nam since 1991 when that country withdrew from Cambodia and foreign aid was reinstated by many donors. Baseline reports for bilateral agencies, studies for multilateral agencies like the United Nations, and sector reports for the international finance institutions contain valuable data that are often accessible only to a chosen few.

This article attempts a synthesis of data from these sources including a comprehensive report on Potential Socio-Economic Impacts of Climate Change on Viet Nam (1) sponsored by the United Nations Development Project in 1991, and the State of the Coastal and Marine Environment Report, Viet Nam 1994 (2), sponsored by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).(1) Both reports reflect the paucity of high quality environmental monitoring data in Viet Nam. Few scientifically defensible conclusions can be made with respect to either climate change impacts or the present state of Viet Nam's environment, but the reports do provide a sense of priority issues, trends, and expert judgements on potential impacts. These reports are described here in the interests of broadening the understanding of Viet Nam's environmental issues and to share an appreciation of Viet Nam's environmental conditions and the possible impacts of climate change on the most pressing environmental challenges that Viet Nam is facing.

The key environmental issues discussed here were identified by the Vietnamese Government in their address to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in July 1992. In order to illustrate these issues, twenty representative topics were identified in the State of the Coastal and Marine Environment Report. Table 1 relates the key environmental issues with specific topics that were evaluated in this report.

PREDICTIONS FOR CLIMATE CHANGE IN VIETNAM

A study was commissioned by the United Nations Environment Program in 1991 to investigate the potential socio-economic impacts of long-term climate change associated with the "Greenhouse Effect."(1) Following a brief introduction to the geography of the country, some predictions of potential climate change in Viet Nam [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED] are detailed below.

Viet Nam, a long, narrow country occupying a coastal position in the intertropical zone, is relatively small with a total area of about 33 million hectares. Key features are two river deltas which are centres of population and agricultural production: the Red River delta within the Bac Bo plain in the north and the Mekong River delta within the Nam Bo plain in the south. Hanoi, the capital city, is located in the Bac Bo plain and Ho Chi Minh City is situated in the Nam Bo plain. Between the deltas and in the north, the land is mountainous, flanked on the east by the coastal plain. About three-quarters of Viet Nam's land is highlands. Off the coast of Viet Nam is a wide continental shelf, and fisheries are of great economic importance.

The population of Viet Nam stands now at approximately 73 million and the growth rate exceeds 2% per year. The inhabitants have a low standard of living but the Gross National Product (GNP) is difficult to assess, given the complexity of the dual free-market and controlled economies. Estimates of a per capita GNP of US$ 300 may not be misleading, although wealth is more fairly distributed than in many developing countries. Viet Nam's ecological resources include mangrove forests, coastal beaches, equatorial and alpine forests, lakes and rivers; and her mineral resources include coal, oil and natural gas. Agriculture for food production is still the predominant economic activity.

Viet Nam's climate is tropical monsoon and the region is susceptible to extreme climatic events such as typhoons. The country extends over 15 degrees of latitude, producing a large difference in climate between the south with its wet and dry seasons and the north with its four distinct seasons. …

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