HANOI (AlertNet) – Two-thirds of small and medium-sized enterprises in Vietnam have no plans to prepare for or respond to natural disasters, despite the country being listed as one of the most vulnerable to climate change, a study found.
Even the one-third of businesses that have plans have no capacity to implement them, according to the Asia Foundation, which conducted the study with Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Center for Education and Development.
The study found that only about 40 percent of small and medium-sized businesses have disaster insurance, even though all the respondents said they could face natural disasters and 60 percent had lost physical infrastructure, products and equipment in the past five years.
“In Vietnam, businesses are suffering losses but they remain unprepared,” said Nguyen Tri Thanh, the Asia Foundation’s environment program officer.
Vietnam, with a coastline more than 3,200 km (2,000 miles) long, has been cited as one of the countries most at risk of climate-change related extreme weather and sea level rise.
The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said a one-metre rise in sea level would affect almost one in four Vietnamese, and submerge 40,000 square kilometres of the country's land.
The Vietnam study, with responses from 191 surveys and in-depth interviews with 51 small and medium-sized enterprises, was conducted in three provinces in May and June 2011 but the findings in English were made available only at the 6th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change, which ended Sunday.
Of the more than half a million businesses in Vietnam, 90 percent are small and medium-sized, and they account for 40 percent of the country’s GDP and employ some 9.5 million people, Nguyen said.
“The private sector plays a very important role in the economy and their ability to bounce back, re-establish production and continue to provide employment to local workers in the aftermath of disasters is critical to the communities,” he said.
BUSINESSES LEFT OUT
Yet the study found that many are ill prepared, with little in the way of emergency plans and little awareness of any government-led plans on actions to take in time of disasters.
Close to three out of five business do not carry out regular maintenance of roads and pathways on their own premises, more than 70 percent do not have alternative supply routes and almost half do not have plans for protecting equipment and data.
“Over the past few years, there has been a substantial increase in new initiatives in Vietnam focusing on local capacity building and community-based response to disasters. Such efforts, however, have not effectively engaged local businesses in disaster preparedness and response,” the study said.
According to the study, more than four out of five businesses were frequently hit by seasonal storms, a little less than half by floods and 12 percent by cyclones and high tide.
Losses were so high for 5 percent of the businesses surveyed that their operations are no longer viable.
Yet businesses do not work together in times of emergencies – almost 80 percent of businesses in the study were not involved in supporting others at those times. The few that did worked only within their own business group.
Asia Foundation said it has started providing training on managing disaster risks to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Vietnam after the study.
Thanh told AlertNet the organisation is planning to expand the training this year.
“We’re facing two kinds of challenges,” he said.
“The first is to get people to understand why we're working with SMEs on community-based adaptation to climate change, and the second is to get the businesses interested in our programme because it's the first training of its kind in Vietnam."