Residents of landslides-prone areas wait for relocation

Flash floods battered northern mountainous area in late June, sweeping away Lu Van Ve’s house and all of his belongings.

Storm brings extreme weather to northeast, north, and central regions
Trees across Hanoi devastated by storm Wipha
Weakened Storm Wipha devastates northern and central Vietnam

Residents of landslides-prone areas wait for relocation

People living next to the stream in Ho Village, Sa Pa, Lao Cai Province are at heightened risk of losing their homes to landslides and flash floods. 

More than one month later, Ve, in his late 50s, told Vietnam News Agency that seven members of his family are still staying at a neighbour's house while they wait for a new place to live.

Na Hu Village in Muong Te District, Lai Chau Province, where Ve lives, houses 230 families near Nam Bum Stream in an area highly prone to landslides and flash floods.

Chairman of the district’s People’s Committee Mai Van Thach said the village is densely populated. There are not enough land lots for families living in danger areas to relocate.

“The district has about 150 households in urgent need of relocation," he said. "Due to budget and land fund difficulties, the relocation plan has been delayed."

Last year’s torrential rains and flash floods in the province killed 25 people, left 14 others missing and collapsed 134 houses. Nearly 400 households were forced to relocate.

According to Ha Van Um, director of Lai Chau Province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, there are now 300 households in the province in need of relocation. Due to budget difficulties, Um said, “relocating all these families at the same time is not an easy task”.

Whenever it rains for a few days in a row, Duong Ngoc Lam and his family in Na Dua Commune, Tuyen Quang Province's Na Hang District have to move to a neighbour’s house in a safe area in case of landslides.

Three years ago, cracks started to appear inside Lam’s house after repeated torrential rains and flash floods.

“The cracks in the village stretch hundreds of metres," he said. "During the rainy season, new cracks 15 to 20cm length and a metre deep appear.”

Lam's family is just one of 138 families in the commune in need of relocation.

Although a plan to move the families is ready on paper, district authorities have been unable to secure the huge amount of funding needed.

In the northern mountainous provinces of Lai Chau, Yen Bai, Lao Cai and Tuyen Quang, which are frequently battered by natural disasters and have the highest numbers of victims, there are thousands of households in areas at high risk of landslides and flash floods in urgent need of safe spaces to live.

But once again, a lack of funds and open space has delayed their relocation, leaving residents on the brink of disaster. Residents have no choice but to wait patiently for new houses.

Unstable resettlement


Those lucky enough to be resettled appreciate their newfound security, but their livelihoods are not always improved.

About 30 Dao ethnic minority families in Phia Chang Hamlet, Son Phu Commune, Tuyen Quang’s Na Hang District moved to Thuom Kieu Resettlement Area in 2014.

Dang Thi Xuan, one of the people who resettled, said: “My family moved to the resettlement area hoping for a better life. But life has become tougher without having land to cultivate.”

“Every day, I have to go to the forest searching for bamboo shoots and herbal plants and sell them for about VND50,000 (US$2.1) to buy rice for the whole family," she said. "But this is not enough for us to live on."
Phung Xuan Hoc, head of Na Mu Hamlet, said that before families moved to the new area, just a few of them were classified as poor. But now, because they lack land to grow food, 27 out of the 30 families are classified as poor or near poor households. Some families have left the resettlement area to move close to a lake and raise fish.

Residents of landslides-prone areas wait for relocation

A crack that appeared on the side of a house in Hong Thu Man Village, Lai Chau Province's Phong Tho District last year. 

In Van Ho Village in Phin Ngan Commune, Bat Xat District, Lao Cai Province, 19 families were relocated far from their fields, affecting their incomes. Many farmers have had to stay in tents by their fields to take care of their crops.

Tan Lao Ta, chairman of the commune’s People’s Committee, said the local authorities are assisting residents in finding new sources of income not reliant on growing crops.

In Vang Mai Chai Commune, Phong Tho District, Lai Chau Province, residents are lucky to both have a safe place to live and be able to maintain their production. But they lack access to electricity and indoor plumbing.

Ready to respond

Some communities have taken matters into their own hands. Despite the limited local budget, many families in Lai Chau Province's Sin Ho and Phong Tho districts moved to safer places without waiting for authorities.

The National Centre for Hydro-meteorological Forecasting predicted that this year there will be a lot of torrential rains, causing flash floods and landslides in the northern mountainous region.

The Government's strategy to reduce the risks associated with natural disasters this year stems from local communities, meaning people play a key role in minimising losses.

Vice chairman of Yen Bai Province’s People’s Committee Nguyen Van Khanh proposed the Government, the Steering Committee on Natural Disaster Prevention and Control and relevant agencies study solutions to reduce natural disasters, flash floods and landslides in the northern mountainous region.

He said he expected the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to increase the accuracy of flash flood and landslide risk maps to help direct natural disaster prevention work at the local level.

He proposed the Government equip northern mountainous provinces with natural disaster forecasting and early warning devices, and allocate funds to repair damaged rivers, streams, transport infrastructure and irrigation words.


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