New Zealand provides dam safety expertise to Vietnam

Foreign Minister Murray McCully

New Zealand will spend $5.4 million in the latest phase of a project that will this country's expertise to help ensure dam safety in Vietnam.

Damwatch Engineering managing director Peter Amos told BusinessDesk the aim is to build capacity in Vietnam, a country with one of the largest dam systems in the world where failures have led to loss of life as well as infrastructure. Last October, for example, severe flooding from heavy rains and the sudden release of hydropower reservoirs left more than 15 people dead, according to local media reports. Some 10,000 homes were affected, as well as railway lines and crop land.

"It's really about improving how they go about things," said Amos, underscoring New Zealand's strength lies in skill building. "It's not a fly in, fly out operation ... New Zealand is contributing expertise rather than bricks and mortar."

Vietnam has more than 7,000 dams, which are used for irrigation, electricity and drinking water, with a plethora of different sectors and stakeholders.

One of the aims of the current project is to break down silos and ensure cooperation, said Amos.

The Dam and Downstream Community Safety Initiative was launched in 2012 and Damwatch Engineering and Crown Research Institute GNS Science were involved in creating a dam safety methodology, which will now be applied to multiple dams in a large river basin.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully and Ha Cong Tuan, Vietnam's vice minister of agriculture and rural development, launched the next phase of the project in Ha Noi, which will focus on dam safety for the 1,000 kilometre-long Ca River in Vietnam. The project builds on a three-year $2.5 million pilot project that concluded in May 2015, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

"New Zealand is sharing its expertise in water engineering and natural hazard management to help Vietnam address its development challenges," McCully said in a statement. According to MFAT, both this initiative and the pilot were requested by the Vietnamese government in recognition of New Zealand's expertise in dam safety management and hazard risk identification.

"Our support will help Vietnam effectively assess dams most in need of repair, coordinate dam owners with officials and communities, and upgrade the training curriculum for future water managers," he said.

The Ca River basin - the fourth largest in the country - runs through two provinces that have a population of more than 4 million. An estimated 978 dams are in the basin, including 15 large dams.

The project aims to halve the death toll from flooding on the Ca River and reduce associated economic losses by 30 percent by 2021, according to McCully. The Vietnam - New Zealand Dam Safety Project is funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme and will be implemented by Vietnam's Thuy Loi University, New Zealand's Damwatch Engineering and GNS Science.


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