Assessing relative vulnerability to sea-level rise in the western part of the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam
The Mekong River Delta in Vietnam plays a crucial role for the region in terms of food security and socioeconomic development; however, it is one of the most low-lying and densely populated areas in the world. It is vulnerable to seawater incursion, flood risk, and shoreline change, exacerbated as a consequence of sea-level rise (SLR) related to climate change. This study examined the Kien Giang coast in the western part of the delta, comprising seven coastal districts (namely Ha Tien, Kien Luong, Hon Dat, Rach Gia, Chau Thanh, An Bien, and An Minh), the economy of which is important in terms of agriculture and aquaculture. The analytical hierarchical process (AHP) method of multi-criteria decision making was integrated directly into geographic information systems (GIS) to derive a composite vulnerability index that indicated areas most likely to be vulnerable to SLR. The hierarchical structure comprised three key components: exposure (E), sensitivity (S), and adaptive capacity (A), at level 1. At the next level, 8 sub-components were mapped: seawater incursion, flood risk, shoreline change, population characteristics, land use/land cover, and socioeconomic, infrastructure, and technological capability, beyond which a further 22 variables (level 3) and 24 sub-variables (level 4) related to vulnerability were also mapped. Variables were assigned weights for incorporation into AHP pairwise comparisons after discussion with stakeholders. Maps were generated to visualise areas where the relative vulnerability was very low, low, moderate, high, and very high. Societal data were generally only available at district level; however, several regional patterns emerged. Relatively high exposure to flooding and inundation, salinity, and moderate loss of mangroves occurred along the coastal fringe of each district. This western section of the delta, which is low-lying and remote from the distributaries that carry sediment to the coast, appears to be particularly vulnerable. The most sensitive areas tended to be ethnic households engaged in rice cultivation and with moderate population density. The least adaptable areas consisted of high numbers of poor households, with low income, and moderate densities of transport, irrigation and drainage systems. Most coastal districts were determined to be moderately to relatively highly vulnerable, with scattered hotspots along the coast.