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UK scientists to probe economic benefits of flood defences in Vietnam

UK scientists will head to Vietnam again to study the economic and environmental benefits of natural flood defences.

Researchers, led by environmental economist Dr Tobias Börger from the University of Stirling, will study the effectiveness of blue and green infrastructure (BGI) – which include wetlands, urban parks and vegetated river banks – at protecting communities from flooding and rising water levels.

The team will also seek to place an economic value on the added environmental benefits brought by such schemes, such as improved air quality, new recreational opportunities, controlling water pollutants and increasing resilience to heat waves and noise pollution.

The project will be based in Can Tho in Vietnam and is being funded by the government-backed Newton Fund, involving academics from Loughborough University’s School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering, Hue University and Can Tho University.

Since 2014, the UK and Vietnam have each spent £5m on over 15 Newton Fund schemes, with a particular focus on agricultural resilience in the face of climate change and other man-made factors.

Dr Börger said: ‘Traditional flood defence and mitigation measures in Vietnam and globally, have favoured hard infrastructure like dykes, concrete barriers and raised structures – all of which are costly to build and maintain, and may have adverse environmental impacts.

‘While we already know a lot about predicting and modelling floods, evidence demonstrating the success of blue and green infrastructure is mostly collected from laboratory tests or small scale urban installations.

‘There is little known about the natural capital and added economic value that alternative BGI measures for flood defence and mitigation can provide.’

Vietnam’s low-lying coastal cities such as Ho Chi Minh City are particularly vulnerable to increased flood risk due to rapid urbanisation and climate change, with flooding a common sight on its famously congested roads.

The research, which will involve high-resolution modelling tools and scenario development, stakeholder workshops, biodiversity surveys and the creation of a framework to measure natural capital, is set to be complete in June 2021.

Read Environment Journal’s report on how researchers from the University of Hull worked alongside academics from Can Tho University on a project aimed at understanding sediment discharge in the Mekong Delta.

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