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Viet Nam

Water management, policies and legislation related to water use in agriculture


According to the Water Law, the government is responsible for the state management of water resources through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), which was transferred from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), while the service function of irrigation and rural water supply remains with MARD. However, the National Water Resources Council (NWRC), which manages water resources, is above the ministries and below the Prime Minister’s Office. At province and district level, the Provincial Peoples Committees, which is directly controlled by the central government, are responsible for implementation in their own jurisdiction. Specific functions of water resources management and water use are allocated to ministries and non-line agencies are as follows:

  • Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is responsible for water resources management.
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is responsible for the management of flood and typhoon protection systems, hydraulic structures, wetland management, and rural water supply and sanitation.
  • Ministry of Industry is responsible for the construction, O&M of hydropower facilities.
  • Ministry of Construction is responsible for the spatial planning and construction of urban water supply, sanitation and drainage facilities.
  • Ministry of Transport is responsible for the planning, construction and management of waterway transport systems.
  • Ministry of Fisheries is responsible for the protection and exploitation of aquatic resources.
  • Ministry of Health is responsible for the management of drinking water quality.
  • Ministry of Planning is responsible for the planning and investment in the water and investment resources sector.
  • Ministry of Finance is responsible for the development of policies on taxes and fees for water resources.
  • Water management

    In Viet Nam the water sector has no overall integrated strategy and action plan at national or regional basin level. However, strategies and action plans exist for a number of the subsectors. In 2000 the NWRC and in 2001 three Boards for River Basin Planning and Management were established to work under the government as advisory, coordination and planning units. With the creation of MONRE in 2002, the responsibilities of the state management of water resources were assigned to the Agency of Water Resources Management within MONRE. This important change shows a separation of state management and service functions for water resources. Previously, both water resources management and service functions were the responsibility of the Agency of Water Resources and Hydraulic Works Management under MARD.

    A national strategy of participatory irrigation management (PIM), together with an action plan approved in 2004 is being implemented. Many water user organizations have been established to take over management of irrigation at the local level (tertiary system of canals and intakes) for the entire country, besides the conventional model of irrigation management, which is by agricultural cooperatives responsible for irrigation and drainage. Management of O&M for secondary and main systems and headworks falls under irrigation management companies/enterprises (IMCs/IMEs), defined as public units providing public goods.

    The existing environmental information and reporting system iis comprised of a national network of environmental monitoring stations, as well as environmental monitoring at the provincial level. The Environmental Monitoring Network is managed by the National Environmental Agency (NEA) of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MOSTE). By 2002, the network had expanded to 21 stations, which conduct monitoring at 250 locations in 45 provinces. Since the establishment of MONRE, the responsibility of producing the state of environment (SOE) reports lies with the Department of Environment and data collection is a mandate of the Office of Data and Information under Viet Nam Environmental Protection Agency (VEPA).

    The objective of the 1999 to 2007 Mekong Delta’s Water Resources Project, was to increase agricultural production, reduce rural poverty, improve living conditions in the project area, and facilitate sustainable water resources development and management in the Mekong Delta.


    The proportion of government expenditures on water-related activities, as part of the total national budget expenditure has declined. Public expenditure for the water sector has increased at an annual average of 8.9 percent during the period 1996-2001. Although spending on water resource management is far too little compared to investment (less than 1 percent) and accounts for less than 10 percent of the current budget expenditure, public investment in the water sector comprised a considerable proportion of the national budget investment from 1996 to 1998 (about 33 percent). This has declined since 1999 owing to a shift in the focus of the national budget ’towards banking systems and improviement of state-owned enterprises. The main investments are made in irrigation, clean water supply and drainage. In 2001, Viet Nam spent about US$560 million in the water sector, which was 6.8 percent of total budget expenditure.

    Irrigation fees were first established in 1984 in some provinces, such as Vinh Long in the Mekong River Delta Region. Funds are received as payments from farmers who are water user for irrigation fees and the government budget subsidy. The method of cost recovery for irrigation is stipulated in Decree No. 43/2003/NÐ-CP.

    According to this decree, the basic fees decided for the specific regions are based on the levels of irrigation services provision and fully irrigated area, and other fees of the various levels of partly irrigated areas are decided based on the basic fees that depend on the natural features and socio-economic development of the regions. In the Red river delta, for example, the irrigation and drainage fee for pumping irrigation services is from US$33/ha to US$50/ha in the spring, and from US$30/ha to US$ 47/ha in the summer.

    Policies and legislation

    Viet Nam has a relatively comprehensive framework of institutions and polices for managing water, irrigation and drainage, such as Water Law (1998, effective from 1/1/1999), Ordnance No. 32/2001/PL-UBTVQH10 on the exploitation and protection of hydraulic works (2001), Decree No. 31/2005/NÐ-CP on the production and supply of public services, Circular No. 90/2004/ TTLT/BTC-BNN on guidelines or financial management of the State Enterprises in the exploitation of hydraulic works, and Decree No. 43/2003/NÐ-CP on the specific regulation of enforcing some articles of the Ordinance No. 32/2001/PL-UBTVQH10.

    The Water Law is a major step towards integrated water resources management. Currently, only partial progress has been made in implementing the reforms it embodies. The secondary legislation necessary for implementing many of the law’s objectives have not yet been developed. The law is basically formulated as a flexible legal framework and a number of decrees were subsequently added. These decrees define the roles, functions, and responsibilities of the institutional bodies for carrying out the water law. The legislative framework is described in circulars on guidance, proceedings of licensing exploitation and utilization of surface water, and licensing of discharging wastewater into water sources.

    The ‘Socio-Economic Development Strategy for 2001-2010’ proposed a number of water-related strategies/objectives. With the approval in 2005 of a National Water Resources Development to 2020, the water sector has an overall integrated strategy and action plan at the national and regional basin level. In addition, strategies and action plans exist for a number of subsectors:

  • Strategy for Rural Agriculture Development in the Industrialization and Modernization Period to2010 (MARD, July 2000);
  • Agriculture and Rural Development Plan (2001- 2005) (MARD, August 2000);
  • National Strategy for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (NRWSS);
  • Second National Strategy and Action Plan for Disaster Mitigation and Management in Viet Nam from 2001 to 2020 (MARD and Central Committee for Flood and Storm Control, December 2001.

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           Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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