Dispatch from the United Nations Development Programme in Vietnam: Kayleigh Swanson’s first blog from the field

By Kayleigh Swanson

Hello from Hanoi!

I have been in Vietnam for a little more than a month now, and I am finally beginning to get used to the heat. My co-workers tell me the 30-degree weather is a welcome change after the summer months when the temperature in Hanoi can reach the high 40s.

I live in a studio apartment in a neighbourhood that is known for its street food, which makes it easy to pick up cheap bowls of phở and bún chả at any time of day. Rice noodles have necessarily become a staple of my diet, along with as much passionfruit as I can get my hands on. Fresh fruit is easy to come by in Hanoi – in the evening the streets are lined with ladies selling fruit and vegetables out of their bicycle baskets.

There is certainly a great deal of exploring to be done in Hanoi, although the high pollution levels can be a deterrent to spending time outside. I constantly receive notifications on my phone telling me to close my windows, turn on an air purifier, and avoid outdoor activities. Pollution levels over the past few weeks have consistently reached the hazardous zone, thanks to limited chemical management strategies that have not caught up to the accelerated industrialization in Hanoi.

Despite the poor air quality, I have still managed to explore some of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, where you can spend an entire Saturday wandering down streets filled with shops that sell everything from rice and dried fruit, to silk and pottery. The time I spend outside on weekends usually ends with a stop at one of the many tea shops that serve iced tea made with fruit and flowers.

I am working as part of the Climate Change and Environment Unit at UNDP Vietnam, where I have been assigned to a project team that is working to increase the resilience of vulnerable coastal communities to climate change-related impacts. The first component of the project involves adding storm and flood resilient design features to 4,000 houses in coastal communities. The housing component of the project benefits poor and near-poor households and prioritizes those headed by socially vulnerable groups including women and ethnic minorities.

The second component of the project involves regenerating 4,000 hectares of coastal mangroves, which have been reduced due to population pressure and overdevelopment. The mangroves form a natural barrier of roots and trunks that protect coastal communities from storms, sea surges, and salt water intrusion, and provide an environment for fish biodiversity and sustainable aquaculture. The third and final component of the project involves enhancing access to climate risk information to guide risk-informed planning and decision-making in coastal communities.

I am hoping that in the coming months I might have the opportunity to do a site visit to one of the communities where the project is being implemented. In the meantime, I am trying to learn as much as I can about the climate risks Vietnam is facing, and of course drinking loads of tea.

2019-10-17T11:37:47-04:002019, Dispatches, News|