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Vulnerability to Environmental Stress

Household Livelihoods, Assets and Mobility in the Mekong Delta, Viet Nam

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This study explores vulnerability and household response measures in the contexts of environmental stress in the Mekong Delta of Viet Nam. Displacement estimates are often based on broad assumptions derived from macro-scale geographical data, viewing individuals’ vulnerability to hazards through the lens of their physical proximity to hazard-prone areas. Given that household assets shape responses to opportunities and threats, this report examines key household assets which determine the household vulnerability, livelihood outcomes and those critical for mobility decision-making in the face of environmental change. The report also provides analysis of government relocation programmes targeting households susceptible to hazards and draws attention to the most asset-poor, who are often trapped and the least able to both adapt to stressors in- situ, or migrate elsewhere.

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The Mekong Delta and research sites

Viet Nam encompasses an area of 331,690 sq km, spanning 16 degrees of latitude, bordered by the South China Sea on the east, having over 3,200 km of coastline, and neighboured by China, Laos and Cambodia. The Mekong Delta region, 80 per cent of which lies in Viet Nam, is the most downstream portion of the Mekong Basin, which passes through or is adjacent to six countries – namely, China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam. The Mekong River itself extends 4,200 km from the Tibetan plateau to the Mekong Delta in Viet Nam, and is drained by a network of distributaries into the South China Sea (Sneddon and Nguyen, 2001). Covering 13 provinces and inhabited by over 17 million people – 20 per cent of the country’s total population – much of the delta is covered by low-lying floodplains lying 0.5 to 3 metres above sea level (Dun, 2009; GSO, 2012). With variations in duration and intensity across locations, the July–November wet season floods roughly 47 per cent of the region at its peak (Sneddon and Nguyen, 2001).

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