Saturday, June 23, 2018, 22:57 (GMT+7)
Vietnam actively steps up prevention and control of natural disasters

In recent years, natural disasters have caused serious damage to human lives and property, significantly besetting the country’s socio-economic development, defense and security. Therefore, active involvement by the entire Party, military and people is required to minimize such disaster-induced damage under the motto of proactive prevention, control and remediation of ensuing consequences. This is a matter of paramount importance to our Fatherland construction and defense.

Over the past years, climate change has increased the number and severity of natural disasters. In the meantime, Vietnam is among the countries hardest hit by natural disasters. It is noteworthy that while those natural phenomena have yet to reach their peak, they continue to grow in scale, intensity and impact, particularly widespread downpour, super typhoons, flash floods, landslides, record-low cold snaps, record-high hot spells, droughts, saltwater intrusion, etc. In 2017 alone, Vietnam was plagued by a record number of natural disasters, which inflicted heavy damage on human lives and property, including multiple typhoons, prolonged downpours, massive landslides in the Northern region, prolonged hot spells and ensuing widespread drought in the South Central region and the Central Highlands.

 Troops of Tra Vinh province evacuate the people from the storm
No.16 in 2017 (photo: VNA)

Statistically, for the past 30 years, natural disasters have resulted in average annual economic losses estimated to be worth 1.5% of Vietnam’s GDP with roughly VND 60 trillion’s worth of damage in 2017 alone. Moreover, natural disasters have directly production activities, human well-being, ecosystems, sustainable economic growth and defense-security stability. Being fully aware of this, the Party, National Assembly, Government and Prime Minister have adopted various measures for their effective and strong leadership and direction as to disaster prevention and control, which has facilitated widespread participation by ministries and sectors at both central and grass roots levels. Doing so has helped stimulate the creativity of the whole political system and people, thereby minimizing disaster-induced damage and greatly contributing to the country’s rapid and sustainable development.

In addition to those above-mentioned achievements, there remain shortcomings in Vietnam’s disaster prevention and control. Awareness remains poor among a segment of local Party committees, administrations and people. While disaster preparedness and response capacities stay limited on and off, infrastructure resilience to disasters is ineffective. Meanwhile, natural disasters are forecast to be complicated, unpredictable, more widespread and more devastating. As a result, in the time to come, measures should be synchronously implemented by ministries, sectors and local administrations in order to boost the effectiveness of disaster prevention and control with emphasis placed on the following.

First, regularly consolidating and strengthening the organizational structure of agencies responsible for disaster prevention and control while effectively adopting relevant policies in the new situation.

Currently, due to their particularities, steering committees for disaster prevention and control at all levels tend to be organized in the form of “wearing many hats” without enough specialized cadres. Therefore, ministries, sectors and local administrations should attach much importance to strengthening the organizational structure quantitatively and qualitatively to ensure the effectiveness of disaster prevention and control in any circumstance. Cadres in charge of disaster prevention and control are required to display their great professional competence, sense of responsibility and devotion to the people. At the same time, the assignment to disaster prevention and control should be specific enough to clarify relevant cadres’ roles. This forms a basis for the State apparatus’ increased professionalism and enhanced managerial capacity, thereby ensuring the consistency, continuity and effectiveness of the State management and redressing overlap between ministries, sectors and local administrations.

Relevant policies and laws should be finalized, particularly the Law on Natural Disaster Prevention and Control and guidelines on the implementation of the laws, which enables ministries, sectors and local administrations to clearly define their roles, particularly in developing disaster response plans in conformity with the levels of natural disaster risks in reality. Accordingly, ministries and sectors at both central and grass roots levels should quickly finalize regulations and policies concerning financial assistance in order to mobilize resources in society, particularly business communities, in the form of the “socialization” of disaster prevention and control, contributing to minimizing disaster-induced damage.

Second, investing heavily in the procurement of equipment and technological advances to enhance the effectiveness of disaster prevention and control while developing leadership capacity as to disaster recovery. Over the past years, despite economic difficulties, means and equipment for disaster prevention and control activities in localities, particularly in natural disaster–prone areas, have been gradually modernized due to special attention paid by the Party, State and local administrations as well as investments from enterprises, thereby contributing to effectively responding to natural disasters and minimizing their resultant damage. Amidst complicated and unpredictable developments of natural disasters, especially in emergencies and harsh terrains, a lot of means and equipment, which serve the direction and command of disaster prevention and control activities, disaster response and recovery as well as search and rescue activities, remain lacking and outmoded. Therefore, in the time to come, it is necessary to mobilize all resources in society and make plans for the application of scientific and technological advances to self-manufacturing in combination with the procurement of specialized equipment serving natural disaster prevention and control activities in any circumstance. In the immediate term, it is essential to upgrade the headquarters of agencies directing and commanding natural disaster prevention and control activities at all levels by providing them with modern monitoring systems, thereby facilitating their real-time management, their decision-making and their performance of disaster response and recovery activities. Forces specializing in disaster recovery and search and rescue should be provided with modern means and equipment in order to improve their preparedness and response capacities in any circumstance, no matter how complicated it may be. In disaster-prone areas, investments should be made in building meteorological and hydrographical observation systems to forecast natural disasters accurately and promptly. New technologies should be applied to the construction and maintenance of natural disaster prevention and control works such as reservoirs, dikes, dams, irrigation works, anti-inundation facilities so that their resilience and convenience are guaranteed.

Third, ceaselessly raising awareness among ministries, sectors and people of disaster preparedness, response and recovery under the motto “prevention is better than cure”.

In recent years, although key schemes have been implemented by ministries, sectors and local administrations to heighten public awareness of disaster prevention and control, their results have fallen short of expectations with formalism seen in a lot of localities. In reality, disaster-induced damage to human lives and property is partly attributed to limited awareness of disaster prevention and control among a segment of cadres at grass-roots level and people. Due to lack of requisite skills in responding to types of natural disasters, a lot of damage to human lives and property did occur, which would have been avoided. As a result, in the time to come, in order to raise public awareness of disaster prevention and control, it is necessary to promote widespread participation by people from all social strata via creative, flexible and practical measures. Accordingly, the mass media should popularize natural disaster prevention and control via diverse contents and forms in line with localities’ culture and public intellectual standards. In addition to the Party’s line, the State’s laws and the Government’s policies, the focus of popularization should be damage caused by each type of natural disasters as well as preparedness and response skills. Doing so will help to raise public awareness of adverse impacts that natural disasters exert on human  lives, the environment and socio-economic development as well as implications that human activities and socio-economic development have for natural disasters and climate change.

The above-mentioned measures are essential to enhance disaster preparedness and response capacities as well as to minimize disaster-induced damage. Ministries, sectors and local administrations should attach importance to integrating disaster prevention and control into their socio-economic development master plans, to organizing training and drills, to conducting inspection as well as to fostering international cooperation regarding natural disaster prevention and control, thereby making the country safe from natural disasters and enabling her to develop sustainably.

Nguyen Xuan Cuong, Member of the Party Central Committee, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Head of the Central Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control

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