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Enhancing flood resilience in urban and coastal areas in Thua Thien Hue Province

Submitted by Philip Bubeck 22nd September 2017 13:38
Follow the story of three women that have taken part in our project using an EbA approach to strengthen women in DRM and CCA
Urban water body in Hue city

An urban water body in Hue City. Photo by CSRD.


Thua Thien Hue province is a coastal province located in central Vietnam. The Tam Giang Lagoon – South-East Asia’s largest lagoon – and adjacent coastal areas are the basis for the livelihoods for many poor and vulnerable people, who directly depend on these natural resources. Currently, about half a million people live in 32 communes along the lagoon and the coast.

Hue city is the provincial capital of Thua Thien Hue province and home to approximately 350,000 people. The Huong (Perfume) River winds its way through the densely populated city and the complex of Hue monuments, which is recognized as a UNESCO World heritage. Both climate change and rapid urbanization have changed the topography and the hydrology of the city, affecting traditional water bodies and resulting in unpredictable and possibly more extreme levels of flooding.

In recent decades, the low-lying coastal areas and Hue city have been repeatedly affected by severe flooding from the sea, rivers and heavy rainfall.

In addition to the chronic stress and shocks caused by flood hazards, a range of societal factors undermines the resilience of already vulnerable groups of society, such as poor and women. These factors include:

  • unstable livelihoods and lacking financial savings to handle external shocks or disruptions,
  • the fast disappearance of coastal and urban ecosystems,
  • increasing pressure on natural resources due to population growth,
  • gender inequality in political decision making, and  
  • a focus on “hard” (i.e. structural) and “exclusive” (i.e. top-down) structural flood defense measures, which are often  associated with negative effects on poor and vulnerable communities.

The role of women in disaster risk management (DRM) and climate change adaptation (CCA)

Existing gender differences make women especially vulnerable to the impacts of flooding. Reasons for this are:

  • the direct dependency of women’s livelihoods on natural resources that are threatened by floods,
  • their role and work-burden in the family, due to their responsibilities for children, sick and elderly,
  • social, economic and political barriers that limit their coping capacity.

Even though women, as pivotal managers of natural and environmental resources, have the experience and knowledge to build the resilience of their communities, they only hold minor roles at the level of policy formulation.

Adaptation Options

ResilNam aims at strengthening the role of women in DRM and CCA through ecosystem based adaptation, namely the restoration, conservation and sustainable management of mangroves and urban water bodies in Thua Thien Hue province.

Ecosystem based adaptation (EbA) “uses biodiversity and ecosystem services in an overall adaptation strategy. It includes the sustainable management and restoration of ecosystems to provide services that help people adapt to the adverse effects of natural disasters and climate change.” EbA is more accessible and inclusive to vulnerable groups compared with structural measures, making them a promising means to strengthen the role of women in DRM and CCA.

Methods and Tools

Demonstrate the value of EbA

The multi-faceted economic, social and cultural benefits of EbA-measures are difficult to account for. This often makes decision makers reluctant to opt for such types of measures. To overcome the barrier towards more inclusive approaches of DRM and CCA, ResilNam will conduct a valuation of the effectiveness, costs and multiple benefits of mangroves and urban water bodies, using a participatory design and applying a gender lens. The valuation will include local cultural values, the importance of tourism, estimating the non-use values of nature, and the reduction in flood risk.

Invest in EbA

In addition to the multiple economic, social and environmental benefits, mangroves can substantially reduce flood exposure by reducing wave and tidal energy.

In the context of rapid urbanization and an increase in the intensity and frequency of heavy rainfall events, natural retention and drainage areas are an important building block of urban flood resilience.

To further enhance flood resilience, ResilNam will directly invest in the plantation of additional mangroves in the Tam Giang lagoon and the restoration of urban water bodies in Hue City, together with local communities, the Women’s Union, the Disaster Management Committee and the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DoNRE).

Strengthen the role of Women in DRM and CCA

To strengthen the role of women in DRR and CCA in Hue province and beyond, ResilNam-Coastal will engage in advocacy and knowledge dissemination activities, such as:

  • Assess the environmental, social and cultural factors influencing flood recovery of men and women to derive tangible policy recommendations.
  • Provide capacity building for women in 12 coastal communities. 
  • Sensitize future decision makers on the importance of EbA and the role of women in DRM.
  • Organize environmental campaigns led by women to stop waste dumping into traditional urban water bodies.
  • Use expert interviews to examine barriers and bridges for women in decision making in public policy.
  • Develop and implement training and dissemination material to support the Women’s Union in strengthening the role of women in DRM and CCA.
  • Disseminate project results to other organizations through the German Committee for Disaster Risk Reduction (DKKV e.V.).

The project is part of the Global Resilience Partnership Water Window and implemented by the University of Potsdam, the Centre for Social Research and Development and the Institute for Environmental Studies/VU University Amsterdam.