Blog 2: Challenges in South East Asia

How was your vacation? Is the most asked question when I return from Asia after weeks hard of work. When I returned from my last trip two weeks ago, I was planning to write a flippant blog on the hardship in South Asian cities (air pollution and traffic jams), the rewarding work (mostly people with great eagerness to learn and develop knowledge together)  ending with some vacation-like pictures of Bia Hanoi and cycling in green rice fields. Yet due to few busy weeks, my blog-writing was postponed to my true vacation, and currently it does not seem appropriate to discuss daily nuisances and pleasures.


Both Vietnam and Myanmar are suffering from massive floods as a result of exceptional high rainfall. Over 100 people have been killed and over 300’000 people have been affected (, accessed August 7th 2015). Severe rain event have become more frequent due to climate change and unsustainable land use practices make the consequences more severe. Rain washes down fast on the deforested slopes and urbanised areas. Bare slopes become instable when saturated with rain and resulting landslides devastate complete communities. Emergency aid is required (and can be given via but also research to develop long term strategies to reduce the impact of these disasters in the future.


Floods cannot be avoided but we can limit the consequences by flood defence structures, early warning, better operation of existing infrastructure and land use planning. Especially Myanmar is after years of isolation lacking knowledge and capacity to do so. TUDelft works together with Myanmar and Vietnamese partners to build this capacity. Our Myanmar PhD student Nay Myo Lwin is investigating how improved operation of reservoirs can reduce the flooding in the Bago and Sittaung Rivers. Ms. Ei Nandar Soe will come to Delft as a postdoc to setup early warning for flooding in Rakhine state using advanced computer models and monitoring. A group of Vietnamese and Dutch researchers works on more sustainable land use practices in the Red River ( . 

There are many more young talented Myanmar and Vietnamese researchers with ideas to reduce their countries vulnerability to floods and droughts.  With them, I write proposals to give them a chance to develop these ideas further and me a chance to keep working with these enthusiastic people in these mostly beautiful countries.

Martine Rutten