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Flood and Storm Management as Cultural Adaptation

The study on local knowledge on flood season management in the Mekong Delta analyzes how cultural habits of living and farming might foster the adaptation to the natural environment. The Province of Can Tho City represents an interesting case for this kind of research due to its specific settlement history.

The study on local knowledge on flood season management in the Mekong Delta analyzes how cultural habits of living and farming might foster the adaptation to the natural environment. The Province of Can Tho City represents an interesting case for this kind of research due to its specific settlement history. In the north-western district of the province one can find an area which is mainly settled by Northern Vietnamese who migrated to the Mekong Delta in the mid-1950s.

 

 

The flood situation in the North of Vietnam differs very much from the hydrological condition in the delta. While the North faces flash floods, the South is characterized by slow onset of water-level rise and slow withdrawal of flood waters. Apart from that, storms are more severe in the North although the frequency and level of storms in the delta recently increased. The research tries to analyze if and how the experience with harsher climatic conditions in the North manifest itself in the settlement patterns of the community of Northerners in the delta today. With respect to this, the different styles of housing (in terms of construction material and shape), are interesting. While the Northerners favor stable construction material such as bricks and concrete, the tradition of the ‘local people’(1) is to use light materials. When the Northerners came to the delta in the mid-1950s they used a mixture of soil and straw supported by a bamboo frame; considering the risk of fire, they always constructed the kitchen as a separated hut. The local people, in contrast, mainly used straw and leaf for house building and integrated the kitchen into their houses.

 

A full survey with the purpose of house classification has been conducted in one hamlet in the Northern Vietnamese commune as well as in one of the Southern Vietnamese commune – both hamlets being economically comparable. Furthermore, focus groups discussions have been organized in both communities in order to methodologically approach the question of different customs serving as asset in ecological adaptation also with regard to climate change. The analysis of the empirical data is currently going on.

 



Figure 2 - left: Old soil-straw wall with bamboo frame, right: Survey housing style.

 

(1) Local people’ is the term used by people from the Northerner’s community to refer to the people who lived in the delta before they came to settle in the research area.

 

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