Preventing Typhoon Damage to Housing, Viet Nam
Posted on 20 May 0018 by:Building and Social Housing Foundation [NGO]
Location: Thua Thien HuÚ, Viet Nam
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This Development Workshop France (DWF) programme has worked over many years with families and local governments in Viet Nam to apply key principles of safe storm and flood resistant construction, both to existing and new homes, as well as to community buildings. Over 1,300 cyclone-resistant houses have been provided to date through the programme, with many other households choosing to use the construction techniques. Communicating these basic principles to local people is an important part of the programme. The building techniques are now being progressively adopted by local and provincial governments, as well as by other NGOs and agencies, both in Viet Nam and Indonesia.
With 44 million people (i.e. 53 per cent of its population) living in coastal lowlands and delta regions, Viet Nam is highly exposed to sea level rise and its associated hazards. Central Viet Nam is only 50 to 100km wide with approximately 500km of coast directly exposed to the sea. It is hit each year by an increasing spate of floods and cyclones. There are indications that the scale and frequency of these events is increasing due to climate change, as well as direct human intervention (deforestation and urbanisation). The Thua Thien HuÚ Province where the programme is located is one of the most disaster-prone provinces in the country, with 60 to 70 per cent of the total population at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods (primarily fishing).
Two social groups are particularly at risk: the extreme poor who live in very fragile conditions; and those who have improved their housing without applying the basic rules of storm resistant construction. These costly structures are easily destroyed, leaving the family heavily in debt. DWF surveys show that 70 per cent of recently built houses are weak and exposed to damage. The immediate disaster relief system in the area is well organised by the government and loss of life has been reduced dramatically in recent years. However, after each disaster, families are left to cope with reconstruction of their homes and livelihoods using their own meagre resources, with little support from the government.
Techniques and strategies used
The purpose of the project is to prevent damage to life and property and, in particular, to reduce the vulnerability of the family and community to damage of their housing and other community buildings. This will address the regular economic loss and persistent poverty caused by typhoons and floods, thus achieving a more stable basis for future development.
The activity at the heart of the project is encouraging families and communities to apply the ten key principles of safe storm and flood resistant construction, both to existing or new homes and to community buildings. The ten safe construction principles promoted are essentially generic, applying to the shape of the building, location, roof angle, reinforcing, closable doors, good connections between structural elements and tree planting. Most important of these are keeping the roof covering on the roof, being able to seal the house with doors and windows/shutters, and achieving a degree of stiffness and solidity in the wall and its structure. Households are urged to include these, even if the other measures are not included, either for reasons of cost or its appearance.
The project also includes raising community awareness of storm and flood damage prevention and building local capacity to make homes more resilient through technology transfer. The seven key areas of the programme are:
i. Demonstrating positive strengthening methods.
ii. Developing skills through training of local builders.
iii. Making damage prevention a priority through participatory awareness raising using theatre, concerts, community events and displays.
iv. Promoting affordable credit for improvements aimed at house strengthening.
v. Building schools using the recommended storm-resistant methods and training teachers and children about disaster prevention.
vi. Developing the institutional environment, through the creation of Commune Damage Prevention Committees in each community.
vii. Preparing commune damage prevention action plans together with local communities.
What is innovative about this approach/tool/project?
┐ Recognising that housing and public buildings can be strengthened to resist disasters / hazards and that this can be done economically and efficiently.
┐ Making communication as important an action as technical action, targeting a long-term change to attitudes.
┐ Creating functions within the commune structures to act as the project interface and implement technical and communication actions.
┐ Using targeted credit from local financial institutions for house strengthening (still at pilot stage).
┐ Establishing the first and only website dedicated to flood and storm control in Viet Nam, and sharing and exchanging information with the commune authorities.
Evidence of results and impact
┐ The houses of 1,300 low-income households have been strengthened directly as a result of the programme. Since 2000, new construction has accounted for 30 per cent of the houses completed through the programme, although in the most recent phase this has increased to 60 per cent, reflecting the weak state of the housing and household preference.
┐ Prior to DWF action, families frequently lost part or all of their homes and each time the cost of recovery was huge, with the family having to borrow to meet this cost. Strengthening the house means that when a natural hazard hits the region, families no longer suffer this loss and the cost of recovery and this enables them to channel their budget to other, more productive activity. They are beginning to improve their homes, since they feel they are secure and permanent structures.
┐ The project has contributed to changing provincial and national understanding about the role that families and communes can play in reducing vulnerability in general and in reducing the level of damage to their homes.
┐ Safe house designs and training have been provided to other NGOs working in Viet Nam.
┐ The Commune Damage Action Plans developed as part of the project benefit all members of the community, not just those who receive direct support for their house improvement.
Costs associated with project development and/or implementation
Transfer and scaling up
Households not directly involved in the project are beginning to adapt all or some of the ten principles of safe construction for use in their own homes. The performance of DWF houses in recent storms has been a major factor in encouraging this. The project is being progressively adopted by communes. Communes who have worked with DWF for some years help those who have more recently become involved in the project.
DWF provides training for many other NGOs and local governments in Viet Nam. For example, technical staff trained by DWF have provided safe house designs to organisations such as the Vietnamese Red Cross and Save the Children. The provincial Department of Construction is planning on formally disseminating DWF techniques. DWF is collaborating with the Association of Vietnamese Cities to take the approach to other provinces. DWF has also been asked to work with the government┐s Temporary House Replacement Programme to provide advice and technical support in relation to the safe construction principles.
The example set by the DWF project led to the British Red Cross asking DWF to develop the long-term safe house strategy for post tsunami reconstruction in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. DWF┐s techniques and approaches have also been adopted by local and provincial governments and NGOs in Myanmar.