[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated:  Friday, 21 March, 2003, 09:05 GMT
'Living with floods'
By Ben Sutherland
BBC News Online in Kyoto

Several governments in the monsoon region of South East Asia have revised their official flood policies in order to promote the positive aspects of flooding.

Vietnamese villagers haul sacks of rice given as food aid
Floods are traditionally thought of as the most devastating of natural disasters, and this has led to policies of total flood prevention being attempted.

But this can be highly costly, and could get ever more so with the more frequent and widespread flooding that might occur as a result of global warming.

China spent more on flood defences between 1999 and 2003 than it had in 30 years previously.

But now they have changed their view, stating earlier this year that "total flood control is not possible".

And Vietnam's Rural and Agriculture Ministry has gone a step further - the country's official policy is now one of "living with floods".

Fish stocks

"The flood is only a disaster when it is too early, or too much, or doesn't come at all," Pham Thanh Hang, programme officer of the UN Development Programme, told the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan.

She said the flooding of the Mekong was an essential part of life in rural Vietnam, providing the water from which the country's staple rice crop was grown.

And after the Tonle Sap lake floods every year, the amount of fish obtained account for 10% of the country's entire GDP.

Consequently, the government has been taking a number of measures to minimise the worst effects of floods, rather than simply trying to prevent them occurring at all.

These have included schools built on stilts 10 metres into the air, and providing swimming lessons to children and parents.

Urban action

Ms Pham said that this was already having an effect. The number of children killed in flooding in 2002 was only just over 100, compared with above 500 in the 2000 floods.

The shift in South East Asia from "flood management to flood control" has been backed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

"Floods are only disastrous when people and property are in the way," Ian Fox, the principal project specialist at the ADB, told the forum.

He said that while urban areas still needed high standards of flood protection, he argued for only minimum measures in rural areas, in order to "maximise the benefits of floods".

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific