Logging Blamed for Floods

Environmentalists are blaming widespread illegal logging as a factor in disastrous flooding that has hit the central coast of Vietnam for the second time in two months.

Flooding rainfall that began December 1 is blamed for 115 deaths and injuries to 120 others. More than 5,300 homes have been swept away and nearly 400,000 more than been inundated and damaged, United Nations officials report.

The latest floods struck just a month after the central coastal provinces of Vietnam were inundated by the worst floods the country has experienced this century in which 592 people lost their lives. These new floods occurred just as rehabilitation measures were being undertaken in order to help stabilize the lives of the people in the central provinces.

The December rains caused flash floods in mountainous areas. Notably the Tra Khuc River in Quang Ngai reached levels unsurpassed since 1964, and river levels in Quang Ngai and Khanh Hoa were higher than any recorded for these provinces over the last 40 years.

Flood waters began to recede slightly today. Preliminary assessments show about one million people are short of food, a crisis that will continue for months because the second wave of floods washed away newly planted rice paddies. Rice and vegetable seeds are in very short supply, as the seeds provided over the last two weeks to counter November flood damages have in many cases been lost in the latest disaster.

Aid agencies have sent tons of instant noodles and 4,000 lifeboats to Quang Ngai and Quang Nam provinces. Oxfam is supporting the Vietnamese Red Cross in their response to the floods.

The Provincial People's Committee of Quang Nam mobilized 1,200 soldiers equipped for relief activities and sent these forces to protect Phu Ninh Reservoir over the night of December 3.

A spokesman for the World Wildlife Fund says the government and provincial authorities are aware of the need to protect the forests and have been active in programs to plant more trees, but at the same time illegal logging has been stripping forests from a steep mountain range not far inland of the flooded area.

Less than 10 percent of Vietnam is covered by primary forest, but these remaining natural forest and grassland areas still hold viable populations of many rare species. The World Wildlife Fund project works to expand the information base on mammals and other important species and ecosystems and to strengthen Vietnam's system of protected areas and ecological reserves.

Source: ENS December 9, 1999