The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog

Natural Disasters in Kon Tum Province: Some Signs of Climate Change

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on May 18, 2014

Kon Tum is a mountainous province located in the North of the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Its western part share borders with Laos and Cambodia. Kon Tum’s terrain is divided by many undulating hills and narrow valleys, lower from north to south and from east to west. The province is included in the Se San River system, thus the watershed area consists of three major rivers such as the Tra Khuc, Thu Bon and Vu Gia.

Kon Tum’s climate has similar traits of not only tropical climate of the southern monsoon Vietnam but also plateau climate. Rainfall distribution changes overtime, with heavy rainfall in July and August (rainy season lasts from May to October). The dry season lasts from December to April. These factors contribute to creating a different set of characteristics of the typical natural disasters that are usually experienced in various provinces in Vietnam, such as droughts; storms, tropical depressions and floods and landslides.

According to the Hydro-Meteorology Station of Kon Tum, annual average temperature has increased from 0.5­­oC to 0.7oC for the period 1980-2009 thus contributing to scorching hot weather over a longer period of time. Moreover, it is relatively obvious that there has been reduced rainfall and increased evaporation during the rainy season, thereby contributing to the severe drought and increased fire risks. Rainfall and its distribution have been very different over time and space. The difference in rainfall between communes in the province has increased dramatically (1.350 mm – 1.450 mm for the period 1995-2010)¹ and the total annual rainfall decreased approximately 2 percent over the last 30 years.

Notably, natural disasters have recently occurred with more unusual and radical trends. Facts have shown that natural disasters such as floods and drought have occurred frequently, in particular flash floods in the rainy season and the dangerous weather phenomena including thunderstorms, tornadoes, etc. In 2009, 5 typhoons and 4 tropical depressions appeared in the South China Sea with Typhoon Ketsana (known in the Vietnam “No.9”) taking a strong toll on Kon Tum’s infrastructure and production activities.²

These developments therefore raise the following questions: Is the climate change responsible for the recent increase of natural disasters in the province that has led to skyrocketing cost by the disasters borne by the local communities? It can be said that it is too early to conclude that the natural disasters in the province caused entirely by climate change. However, it is undoubtedly true that those signs of climate change in Kon Tum are more apparent and might have negative impacts on the lives of local people as well as this province’s development in upcoming years.

The looking for signs of climate change in Kon Tum enables to have more comprehensive analysis in the research on the effects of natural disasters on local people’s agricultural production activities. Natural disasters and climate change have close relationship and are both biggest challenges for the development of not only Kon Tum but also the whole the Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Development Triangle Area.

¹Source: Department of Natural Resources, Kon Tum.
²The most heavily affected areas in Kon Tum is Tu Mo Rong, Mang Ri, Dak Na, Dak Sao, Dak Ha, Te Xang, Dak To Kan.

This blog post has been written by Anh Tuan Nguyen. Anh Tuan is currently a PhD candidate in International Economic Affairs at the Graduate Academy of Social Sciences in Vietnam, and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.


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