ADB, AusAID to help reduce risks of droughts, floods in Mekong basin

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) will provide more than US$87 million in loans and grants to help Laos and Vietnam build disaster-safe infrastructure.

The projects will include community-based disaster risk management and enhanced regional forecasting to improve flood and drought preparedness in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).

"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's also about equipping communities with the skills to plan, predict, and prepare for climate change," said Su Chin Teoh, Natural Resources Specialist in the Southeast Asia Department at ADB.

In addition to upgrading and building canals, drainage pumps and embankments in Vientiane, Lao's capital city, and Vietnamese Mekong Delta provinces of Dong Thap and Tien Giang, the funds will also be spent on collecting data and information to prepare for flood and drought forecasts.

Design criteria for flood and drought mitigation measures in the Mekong Delta will also be developed, and trans-boundary flood management options will be assessed.

A National Early Warning Center will also be established in Laos, according to ADB.

The impact that droughts have on the Lower Mekong Basin is severe, causing massive losses in rice yields and reducing livestock and fisheries.

Extreme weather poses threats to the lives of local farmers, and the cost of recovering from the consequences of natural disasters erodes their ability to save and invest in their futures.

Although annual flooding is seen as beneficial in enriching wetlands with nutrients from the Mekong River, extreme floods can cause a loss of as much as $70 million a year.

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