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Laos and Vietnam given flood and drought funds

By Vivienne Russell | 7 November 2012

Laos and Vietnam are being given an $87m package of loans and grants to help them prepare for both floods and droughts in the Lower Mekong Basin.

The funds, provided by the Asian Development Bank and the Australian Agency for International Development, will pay for infrastructure upgrades, such as canals, drainage pumps and embankments. It will also be used to improve regional forecasting, with both countries collecting data and knowledge to inform flood and drought forecasts. A National Early Warning Centre will be established in Laos.

Su Chin Teoh, natural resource specialist at the Asian Development Bank, said: ‘Floods and droughts in the Lower Mekong Basin can have a major impact on farming, food supply and infrastructure. But reducing the risk isn’t just about building hardware, it is also about equipping communities with the skills to plan, predict and prepare for climate change.’

Droughts in the areas can cause massive losses in rice yields and reduce livestock and fisheries. The 2004/05 drought cost the Mekong Delta an estimated $42m as well as triggering local food shortages.

Flooding, however, can be seen as beneficial as it replenishes wetlands with nutrients. But extreme floods can cost as much as $70m in damage each year. Effective flood management needs to reduce these costs but preserve the benefits.

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