Dr Tobias Börger, environmental economist, is leading the project and the University of Stirling team. The project is being funded by NERC’s Newton Fund, which aims to develop science and innovation partnerships that promote the economic development and social welfare of partner countries.
Since its launch in 2014, the UK and Vietnam have each spent £5 million on Newton Fund schemes, focusing on agricultural resilience with regard to climate change and human impact.
Asia floods: How can the damage be reduced?
“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,” said Dr Tobias Börger.
“There is little known about the natural capital and added economic value that alternative BGI measures for flood defence and mitigation can provide.
“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.”
Vietnam has been selected as the study location as its low-lying coastal cities are particularly vulnerable to increased flood risk due to rapid urbanisation and climate change.
And what’s actually causing the flooding?
“There are three different types of flooding that can happen – rain, river and coastal,” Dr Börger says.
Areas that have a long coastline – such as India and Vietnam – are at risk of suffering from all three types.
“It gets really tricky when you have two or three types of flooding occurring at the same time. Rivers are running high and on top of that you get really hard and heavy rain.”
Floods in Vietnam were estimated to cause $3.85 billion worth of damage between 1999 and 2009 – the equivalent to 1.3% of national GDP (Gross Domestic Product) – and accounted for 67% of deaths among all disaster types between 1989 and 2010.
Photo Credit: Loughborough University
Assessing effectiveness of eco-friendly flood schemes
The project also seeks to place an economic value on the added environmental benefits brought by blue and green infrastructure that protects communities from surface-water flooding and rising water levels – such as improved air quality, new recreational opportunities, controlling water pollutants and increasing resilience to heat waves and noise pollution.
“In the last few decades approaches to dealing with flood risk in urban areas have typically preferred the adoption of hard infrastructure like dykes, concrete barriers and raised structures – all of which are costly to build and maintain, and may have adverse environmental impacts locally and further downstream,” stated Dr. Lee Bosher of Loughborough University’s School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering
“Our team at Loughborough possesses world-leading expertise in flood risk modelling and stakeholder engagement in addressing disaster risk; we will be using this expertise to support the work of the University of Stirling in assessing the role of natural capital and ascertaining the added economic value that alternative BGI measures for flood defence and mitigation can provide.”