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Promoting climate resilient rural infrastructure in Northern Vietnam

The project aims to demonstrate effective bio-engineered solutions which increase resilience of rural infrastructure to climate risk and provide opportunities for community livelihood enhancement.
Atala Marie Poda/Somé
Documentary, Bringing Nature Back, on climate risk and nature-based solutions being tested in northern Vietnam.


The objective of the project in northern Vietnam is to demonstrate effective bio-engineered solutions which, where possible, provide ‘win-win’ outcomes for resilience of rural infrastructure to climate risk and opportunities for community livelihood enhancement.

The project focuses on rural irrigation, slope stability for roads, river-bank protection, and flood protection works. Lessons learned from the project will provide the basis for capacity building activities with local community members, contractors and government staff at local, provincial and national levels. The project also aims to make recommendations for the broader adoption of bio-engineered approaches as an effective solution to manage climate risk in Vietnam. The project will raise awareness of climate risks and vulnerabilities in local communities and empower them with the capability to manage risk through practical, cost effective solutions which can be implemented with local resources.

There are three outputs which ICEM is managing within this project:

  • Climate change vulnerability and risk assessment
  • Detailed design, construction supervision and site monitoring
  • Capacity building and technical training

ICEM is working on the following project activities:

  • Identifying low-cost climate-proofing measures suitable for rural infrastructure in northern Vietnam;
  • Providing technical oversight for the design and construction supervision for bioengineering improvements to rural infrastructure;
  • Demonstration of climate change resilient techniques in the provinces of Bac Kan and Son La on two rural roads, one irrigation scheme, and one river embankment;
  • Establishing a trained cadre of technical personnel familiar with the protection measures;
  • Preparing recommendations for the integration of the demonstrated approaches into training curricula, standard design procedures, and contract specifications; and
  • Identifying climate change risks and vulnerabilities, and the potential for applying the measures used.

The project has obtained funding from the Special Climate Change Fund of the Global Environment Facility (SCCF-GEF).

Methods and Tools

ICEM’s first bioengineered slope project in Bac Kan Province is showing early signs of success.

The test site is divided into four sections, with each section testing and showcasing a different green infrastructure technique. The sections showing the most growth thus far are sections 1 and 4, Brush Layering and Vetiver Grass.

In section one, brush layering was installed using live willow-leaved water croton cuttings, or pượu in Vietnamese. These cuttings have started to take root and are showing a few weeks of growth.

Vegetated riprap acts as a permeable but solid toe to increase stability and prevent erosion. Rocks and stones form an initial layer. Live weeping fig stakes, or si in Vietnamese, are embedded between the rocks and will eventually take root and grow, further solidifying the rock layer and creating a natural habitat for aquatic and terrestrial wildlife.

Vetiver grass is a type of fast-growing vegetation with deep roots that makes an effective hedge against erosion. The vetiver grass that was planted in section four of the test site has already started to grow well.

Lessons Learnt

Bioengineering and green infrastructure techniques such as these are often stronger and more sustainable than traditional engineering techniques. Bioengineering also provides additional benefits such as increased habitat and natural filtration processes. And, rather than weaken with time the way traditional engineering techniques often do, bioengineering will only strengthen as roots and vegetation grow.

For more green infrastructure techniques and information on how to incorporate bioengineering into mainstream development practices, see ICEM’s Resource Kit for Building Resilience and Sustainability in Mekong Towns.

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