Pilot landslide warning systems will be set up in six mountainous regions this year in a bid to save lives and minimise infrastructure damage.

It is part of a larger project involving 37 mountainous areas across the country, which has just been approved by the Prime Minister.

The first landslide warning systems will be set up in Ha Giang, Lao Cai, Yen Bai, Lai Chau and Hoa Binh in the north, and the central province of Nghe An. These provinces, which have relatively high populations, are particularly prone to landslides.

Under the project, a database of information on landslides will be compiled in order to minimise future damage and loss of life due to natural disasters.

Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha said local authorities would be able to base their residential resettlement policies and long-term strategies to mitigate the effects of landslides on the information obtained from the project, which will run from 2012 and 2020.

The project's first phase, which ends in 2015, will involve mapping an area prone to landslides stretching from the north to the Central Highlands. The second phase of the project, which will run from 2016 to 2020, will be based on the results of the first phase.

Tran Tan Van, director of the Institute for Geological and Mineral Sciences, said that mapping landslides and installing warning stations is expensive and difficult, but nonetheless vital to the security of local people.

"Furthermore, many areas have strong geological variations taking place daily due to people's activities. So, in order to have accurate and timely warnings about landslides, localities need to update their geological situation regularly," Van said.

Tran Kim Phan, head of the Department of Irrigation and Flood Control in northern Hoa Binh province, said: "The project is really meaningful to limit damage caused by landslides and rockslides."

He said landslides, including those triggered by floods, killed three people and damaged large swathes of paddy fields and farmland in the province last year.

Last February, a landslide in Mai Chau district killed two people.

"Landslides are continuing to take place, and the highway is still being cleared," Phan said.

The most notorious recent landslide, which killed 20 people and injured six, occurred last April in central Nghe An province's Yen Thanh district.-VNA