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  • Abrina Williams

Building Resilience through Community Engagement

Rapid urbanization coupled with the threats of climate change is perfectly exemplified in Central Vietnam and especially in the city of Da Nang, where the annual population growth rate is 3.48%. The local economy is also growing rapidly, and with this progress comes an increase in risks and vulnerability. Flooding is one such vulnerability, and is an ongoing problem in the region. According to technical analysis, climate change is likely to increase flooding in and around Da Nang over the next 30 years. Flooding has already caused devastating economic damage and the loss of life in the region.

Above: The city of Da Nang, the majority of which is surrounded by water. To the east there is the Han River, and to the North the Da Nang Bay. Google Maps, Feb. 2nd, 2017

While flooding affects many people in Da Nang, the poor and marginalized are often the most vulnerable. As Gaelle Gourmelon of the Worldwatch Institute explains:

‘Climate change disproportionately affects the poor in cities. As cities grow, poor residents often expand informal settlements, including by setting up makeshift shelters in flood-prone areas. These areas, already limited in their access to public services, are increasingly vulnerable as extreme weather events place growing strain on people’s ability to obtain water and food, sanitation, and electricity.’

To find out more about this topic see Richard Friend and James Jarvie’s chapter in State of the World: Can Cities be Sustainable 2016.

Because flooding disproportionately affects poor and marginalized communities, engaging these groups is a key element in reducing flood risk. Dr. Karen MacClune of ISET-International further elaborates:

‘Flood resilience relies on the ability of people at the household and community levels to understand and make informed decisions when faced with flood-risk. It is therefore vital that communities participate in the learning process and have their concerns voiced, both to empower them and to ensure their concerns are understood and addressed.’

ISET has worked for over a decade in Da Nang to engage with local communities, reduce flood risk, and build urban climate resilience. Under a new Water Window grant from the Global Resilience Partnership, ISET will work with the organization CARE to engage local stakeholders from poor and vulnerable communities. After selecting four vulnerable communities in central Vietnam, the team will conduct vulnerability and capacity assessments. Afterwards, they will facilitate a series of meetings within these communities over the course of six months to gain a deeper understanding of peoples’ wants and needs. Through these inclusive community discussions, called Shared Learning Dialogues, participants will brainstorm possible risk-reducing action plans, and weigh the pros, cons, and trade-offs of different options. Finally, the team will support the community in crafting a flood resilience action plan.

Community engagement is only one of many actions needed for reducing flood risk in Central Vietnam, and in communities suffering from flooding all over the world. Under funding from the GRP Water Window Grant, ISET and partners aim not only to engage local vulnerable communities but to bring their concerns to the attention of government decision makers at the local, regional, and national levels. It is our hope that this process can be replicated throughout Vietnam.

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