The economic and environmental benefits of natural flood defences will be explored in a £467,000 University of Stirling-led project.
Researchers, led by Environmental Economist Dr Tobias Börger, will study the effectiveness of blue and green infrastructure (BGI) – which include wetlands, urban parks and vegetated river banks – at protecting communities from surface-water flooding and rising water levels.
The team will also seek to place an economic value on the added environmental benefits brought by such schemes, such as improved air quality, new recreational opportunities, controlling water pollutants and increasing resilience to heat waves and noise pollution.
The project will be based in Can Tho in Vietnam and is being funded by the Newton Fund through the Natural Environment Research Council. It involves academics from Loughborough University’s School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering, Hue University and Can Tho University.
Dr Börger said: “Traditional flood defence and mitigation measures in Vietnam and globally, have favoured hard infrastructure like dykes, concrete barriers and raised structures – all of which are costly to build and maintain, and may have adverse environmental impacts.
“While we already know a lot about predicting and modelling floods, evidence demonstrating the success of blue and green infrastructure is mostly collected from laboratory tests or small scale urban installations.
“There is little known about the natural capital and added economic value that alternative BGI measures for flood defence and mitigation can provide.”
Vietnam’s low-lying coastal cities are particularly vulnerable to increased flood risk due to rapid urbanisation and climate change. Floods were estimated to cause $3.85billion worth of damage between 1999 and 2009 – the equivalent to 1.3% of national GDP – and accounted for 67% of deaths among all disaster types between 1989 and 2010.
The research, which will involve advanced, high resolution modelling tools and scenario development, stakeholder workshops, biodiversity surveys and the creation of a framework to measure natural capital, is set to be complete in June 2021.