Enhancing drought monitoring in Vietnam through satellites

Cai Phan Rang River
Image credit: Dang Thanh Binh

This year Ninh Thuan, a province in south central Vietnam, faced another severe drought affecting thousands of households making water for daily use scarce and causing extensive damage to crops and livestock. With support from SERVIR-Mekong, a joint initiative between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the provincial meteorology station is equipped to provide communities with improved drought forecasting to help them adequately prepare for the drought season. 

SERVIR-Mekong uses publicly available satellite data to find solutions that address regional environmental challenges. Together with the Mekong River Commission, SERVIR-Mekong co-developed the Regional Drought and Crop Yield Information System (RDCYIS) tool to improve the accuracy of drought forecasting and monitoring across the Lower Mekong.  SERVIR-Mekong engaged with partners in Vietnam, including the Vietnam Academy for Water Resources and Ninh Thuan provincial authorities, to test the tool for local-level implementation and to build an evidence base for scaling the service.

In the past, the Ninh Thuan Hydro Meteorology Station utilized drought forecast information from various hydro-meteorology stations sub-nationally and compared data with models from around the world to issue public warnings to local communities in Ninh Thuan. 

In 2019, after a series of SERVIR-Mekong workshops to introduce the RDCYIS to provincial users, the Ninh Thuan Hydro Meteorology station published a newsletter on the shortage of water and disseminated the information to other sector agencies and the media. Based on this information, the Ninh Thuan People Committee was able to assess the level of risk the incoming drought posed to local communities.

This was the first time that Dang Thanh Binh, Deputy Director of Ninh Thuan Hydro-Meteorology Station, was introduced to the system. After attending training workshops, Binh not only used the data derived from the RDCYIS to improve Ninh Thuan’s monthly drought bulletins, but he also used them to further his own research in the field of drought forecasting. 

As a result, Binh published a research paper entitled Application of SERVIR - Mekong’s RDCYIS tool to enhance drought forecast and warning generation in Ninh Thuan province. The paper discusses the advantages of historical rainfall data provided by the RDCYIS, to prepare communities to respond to drought and application of the tool to improve the accuracy of drought forecasting.

Dang Thanh Binh (second right) with a delegation from the  Office for Desertification Convention during a field visit to the Phuoc Trung reservoir in Ninh Thuan Province. (Credit: Dang Thanh Binh)

“The Ninh Thuan Hydro-Meteorology Station would like to thank USAID, SERVIR-Mekong, and Asian Disaster Preparedness Center for introducing this forecasting service to improve the quality of drought forecasting in Ninh Thuan to enhance the province’s forecasting capabilities,” said Binh. “This will greatly benefit Ninh Thuan in contributing to the reduction of damages caused by natural disasters in the province.”
Binh suggests that for future enhancements, there should be further capacity enhancements at the provincial and national levels and promote the tool for use more widely. The information products available in the system should also be updated with much higher spatial resolution to include details on the hydrological and topographic features at the local scale. 

Upon successful implementation in Ninh Thuan, SERVIR-Mekong will continue to work to improve the RDCYIS and support the Mekong River Commission who recently issued a severe drought warning through the Lower Mekong region. A state of the art tool such as the RDCYIS greatly benefits Lower Mekong governments in providing accurate data to forecast drought and mitigate its effects on local communities and people.