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GEO-3: GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT OUTLOOK  
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Disaster responses

Asian countries are at different stages of institutional development with respect to disaster reduction. Some, such as Japan, have a long-established system of disaster management. Stimulated by the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), other countries (such as Viet Nam, see box) have either strengthened existing frameworks or are formulating new ones (UNESCAP and ADB 1995).

Despite some recent achievements, significant measures and actions still remain to be taken at the regional and national levels to reduce risks and losses due to disasters, namely:

  • the impact of environmental degradation needs to be examined - raising awareness about the dangers of environmental degradation among the governments and people is of utmost importance;
  • deforestation should be stopped;
  • mitigation and preparedness measures already undertaken must be strengthened;
  • actions are needed to reduce poverty levels with a view to maintaining the resource base and protecting biodiversity; and
  • rural development is a prerequisite for reducing the migration of people to cities and coastal areas.
Being prepared: Viet Nam's disaster reduction programme

Viet Nam has a long tradition of disaster mitigation. When the United Nations General Assembly designated the 1990s as the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, Viet Nam responded by organizing a National Committee and strengthening the role its Central Committee for Flood and Storm Control (CCFSC) plays in disaster mitigation. The CCFSC has developed programmes, plans and measures for disaster reduction in coordination with other relevant organizations, directed the implementation of disaster mitigation activities and coordinated actions with relevant international organizations.

In the late 1990s, Viet Nam experienced a number of extreme events, including Typhoon Linda (1997) in the southern coastal area. Although the human and economic losses were tragic, agencies at all levels strengthened their search and rescue capacities, resulting in tens of thousands of evacuations. More than 5 000 people were saved by these efforts. Once the typhoon abated, the government provided assistance to the local fishing communities. As a result of this and other disasters, the government took policy decisions for each part of the country, including improving flood resistance and protecting populated areas, by strengthening the system of dykes and flood diversion structures in northern Viet Nam, policies to prevent and mitigate flood damage in central Viet Nam, and the Mekong River Delta policy which is designed to prepare measures for living with floods and minimizing their damage.

In recognition of these achievements, the United Nations awarded Viet Nam the Certificate of Distinction for Disaster Reduction on 11 October 2000, the International Day for Disaster Reduction.

Source: UNEP 2001