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To Trung Nghia
Water Resources Planning Institute
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Hanoi

In the context of great changes and development in the world as a whole and in Viet Nam in particular, it is obvious that any socio-economic development is closely linked to the need for water. Rapid economic and demographic growth results in increased demand for water; improper use of water resources leads to water shortage and to pollution of the water environment. Viet Nam has had programmes and a short-, medium- and long-term strategy on water resources planning. The country is integrating into the world in linking the water issue to its development potential, putting it high on the overall agenda, together with social equality, sustainable development and protection of the environment.

In spite of confronting the myriad difficulties of a backward agricultural country suffering from continuous natural calamities and protracted wars throughout her history, Viet Nam has given top priority to irrigation and drainage, water resources exploitation and development. The following is an overview of her historical development.

1. Up to Independence in 1945

From time out of mind, the Vietnamese people have attached great importance to water. For plants, water was considered the key factor: “Water, manure, hard work and seedlings” is the age-old recipe. At the same time, they also realized the need to control water and water came first among the four calamities - “Water, fire, religion, invasion”.

In 1945, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (as Viet Nam was spelt then) was born with a poor and backward economy. The country had only 13 water systems, many of which had yet to be harnessed. The Red River delta had an old and vulnerable flood-preventing soil dyke system. A typical case happened in 1945 when the Red River rose, its dyke broke and more than 260 000 ha of paddy fields were flooded. This calamity, coupled with the war, resulted in crop failures and the subsequent famine claimed more than 20 000 lives. Despite numerous difficulties and shortages, the government spent much of its capital and mobilized the people to overcome flood consequences, restore water structures and repair dyke breaks. The Mekong River delta had only a few channels to exchange goods and crop cultivation totally relied on rainwater. There was no water infrastructure. The Central, Midland and mountainous areas continuously suffered from droughts.

2. From 1946 to 1975

From the sorrowful 1945 lesson, the government advocated the protection and development of the country’s water infrastructure and encouraged the people to build small water structures. Between 1946 and 1949, the water-structure-building movement by the people was extensively implemented in order to expand the available water infrastructure and increase irrigated areas. The government also pushed land reclamation and the building of flood-preventing dykes, particularly in the Red River delta.

The 1949-1954 period was the most difficult wartime. Nonetheless, the government paid special attention to water resources and issued Ordinance 68-SL on 18 June 1949 establishing inter-district and provincial hydro-agriculture councils, which were responsible for building, repairing and developing hydro-agricultural structures and dykes.

In the 1955-1957 period of economic restoration, the duties of the water resources industry were defined as follows: “The macro hydro-agriculture duties are to restore all the water infrastructure system which was exploited before the Resistance and widen channels to increase irrigated areas, reform irrigation water management, and educate the people to save water so that little water is used but much land is irrigated. While the macro hydro-agriculture duties are implemented, it is necessary to develop micro hydro-agriculture countrywide” (The 1955-1957 economic restoration plan).

In 1958, Vietnam shifted to a period of economic restoration and development. The targets of the water resources industry in the three-year plan were to overcome floods, widen irrigated areas, narrow cultivation areas reliant on rainwater, guarantee adequate water supply in the face of greater demand due to technological improvements and contribute to the cooperation movement in order to fulfil the three-year agriculture production duties and create a firm foothold for hydraulic modernization.

In 1960, Vietnam substantially developed water resources exploitation and control, taking the first steps in researching how to control and exploit the Red River. This was useful for the preparation of the first five-year plan. Vietnam started to build reservoirs and medium-sized hydroelectric plants. Several colleges and institutes were established for training and scientific research on water resources development.

The 1961-1965 period was considered as a great leap forward for the North’s water sector. Directing the guidelines for those five years, the Fifth Congress of the Communist Party’s Central Committee (the third legislature) issued a resolution in which the section on the water resources sector was defined as follows: “Water service is the first measure to develop agricultural production. In the next five years, the water resources industry must take an active role in preventing droughts, narrowing flood areas, guaranteeing adequate water for paddy cultivation and for areas planted with vegetables and industrial crops that are only partially irrigated. To prevent floods, river and sea dykes must be strengthened and riverbeds scraped, guaranteeing protection from high river levels and strong winds. It is necessary to make plans for the Red River, build essential structures and start research on big rivers.”

In order to fulfil the plan, the government started a new small water structure-building movement by the people over 1964 and 1965, which increased the number of reservoirs and irrigation and drainage structures. Research on how to control and exploit big rivers brought about the first tangible results. For the Red River system, terrace exploitation plans for the Lo and Da rivers were drawn and it was determined that the Hoa Binh hydroelectric plant should be the first water structure on the Da River. At the end of the 1961-1965 plan, there were 83 large-scale hydraulic structures and 2 830 medium-sized structures which could irrigate 449 800 ha and drain 207 600 ha. The water resources industry of the period contributed to controlling nature, efficiently serving agriculture production and supplying safe water to large areas.

In the 1965-1975 period, the government advocated building large intensive-cropping zones which, properly irrigated and drained, could yield at least five tons of rice per hectare per year. Only selective building of large-scale and medium-sized water structures was done, because at the time the country was once again at war. The government issued the policy of developing water structures in mountainous areas. A series of medium-sized and small reservoirs were built, some of which had the capacity to hold millions to tens of millions of cubic metres of water.

3. From 1976 to 1995: reconstruction

In the 1976-1985 period, newly reunified Viet Nam started water resources protection, development and management countrywide. In the South, agriculture was still backward and totally reliant on nature. Droughts and floods occurred frequently. Millions of hectares of land were still in wild condition. The government advocated focusing all efforts on developing water resources services in the South to meet the urgent needs of each region to serve production, thus easing and improving people’s lives. The water resources agencies quickly went about collecting all available documents, undertook supplementary analysis and primary research on regional plans, defined the structures to be built at once, and prevented actions that could run counter to the long-term strategy. In the North, hydro-agricultural completion was hastened in every locality. Water structures were improved in both capacity and operating speed. At the same time, key structures kept being built to meet every region’s basic needs. The issue of drainage, which had been implemented at low level, was totally solved. In the Central area, the water resources services still had difficulties and only dealt with droughts.

The water resources services in the South set about convincing the people in the Mekong river delta to shift from backward cultivation methods to the new cultivation technology.

The 1985-1995 period was a time of renovation. The government advocated developing a diversified agriculture with food production as the key element to guarantee sustainable social development and a multi-faceted commodity economy with market mechanisms and government management. The new economic structure created the issue of diversely supplying water to people, animals and plants in plains, hills and mountainous areas. The supply of safe water, especially in mountainous areas, was taken up in the national plan. Water structures were radically and more efficiently exploited. However, in the process of exploitation and development there emerged problems on mobilizing socially useful labour, compensation, using land to build structures, environment protection, immigration, and investment capital management. Based on extensive and careful research, hydraulic regions were classified and investment projects designed in harmony with each region’s natural conditions and development needs. Several large areas were successfully desalinated and turned over to cropping. From few structures formerly, by 1995 there were 75 large-scale hydro-agricultural systems, 750 big and medium-sized reservoirs, tens of thousands of channels and 7 000 km of river and sea dykes. There were also tens of thousands of small structures and pumping stations. 5 600 000 ha of paddy field and 560 000 ha of vegetable land were irrigated, 865 000 ha of land were drained, 16 000 ha of land were free of alum and 700 000 ha of coastal land were desalinated by building dykes and drainage channels, besides supplying water to tens of millions of urban and rural people and meeting water demand for domestic consumption and industrial production in mountainous areas.

In addition, Viet Nam attached importance to international cooperation and intensified cooperation on training cadres and on project research and investment, especially projects on rivers shared with neighbouring countries. In international cooperation, Viet Nam preserved the rules of national sovereignty and national interest, exploited and protected domestic water resources while seeking to harmonize relations among, and the national interests of, the countries along the banks of the Mekong River. Overall plans on water resources development in deltas were drawn, particularly for the Red River and the Mekong River deltas, creating the premise of an overall national plan. Plans were also drawn for key regions to serve investment projects on water resources and other industries in order to guarantee the balanced development of water resources among the regions. A draft law on water resources was prepared for submission to the government. The water resources agencies also drew plans for water resources development in the 1996-2000 period and development projections for 2010. The government had a programme to evaluate the country’s water resources and water usage and issued a series of standards on quality of surface water, groundwater, wastewater, etc.

In spite of those achievements, there were still many problems, as listed below:

a. The Red River delta

Most dykes, built with earth, were usually eroded. Pumping stations had been in use for more than ten years, sometimes more than twenty, and electricity systems were backward. Annual maintenance and repair cost much money and effort, but the government budget was insufficient and irrigation and drainage fees were much lower than production costs; thus, the structures deteriorated. Meanwhile, water demand for production increased and there was a growing need for irrigation and drainage.

After the Hoa Binh hydroelectric plant came into operation, there occurred both positive and negative changes in the Red River delta and hydro-agricultural systems had to adjust to such changes.

Annual flooding was still a challenge to the sustainable and stable development of the delta, not only for agricultural production but also for the whole economy. Protecting dykes, consolidating the water infrastructure, preventing internal instability as well as overflows had to be done frequently with proper investment. In addition, it was vital for the sustainable development of the delta to combine the water resources plans for the Lo Gam and Da rivers with reforestation and forest protection.

b. The Mekong River delta
Due to ecological changes and upstream exploitation, the Mekong River’s flow regime in the dry season and in the rainy season is very complicated. Saltwater was spreading and fresh water shrinking as the demand for water in the dry season increased. Therefore, the urgent task was to build saltwater-preventing structures, including surrounding dykes and drainage systems. Apart from agricultural development, industrialization in the Mekong River delta created a great demand for water.

The Mekong River’s floods on the one hand made life difficult for the local people, particularly those in newly developed regions whose houses were not suited to flooding conditions; on the other hand, they provided alluvial deposits, increasing the fertility of the soil, reducing the number of pests. So, it was necessary to work out different sustainable, adaptable strategies for different regions.

In some parts of the Tien and Hau rivers, erosion and landslides were a risk to people on the banks, but there were no ready solutions.

4. From 1995 to date

Since 1995, research on large hydroelectric plants has been completed. The Law on Water Resources has been passed. Based on the need to supply water, both in quantity and in quality, for urban, agricultural and industrial development, the water resources agencies have proposed the following development plan for the period leading to 2010:

a. Adequate supply

Water resources planning is the first step in agricultural production and a key element in sustainable industrial development. In coming years, apart from supplying water for paddy cultivation, water resources services must meet the further requirements of agriculture, industry, ordinary consumers, security and defence, and the ecosystem. Especially in agriculture, they must support industrial cropping, fruit tree growing, fishery, production for export and the development of midlands and mountainous areas.

b. Water usage coupled with water resources protection

Although Viet Nam has abundant water resources, most of them are generated in neighbouring countries and run the risks of running out and of being contaminated. Therefore, in order to use water resources in a sustainable manner, Viet Nam must act as follows:

c. Avert water-related dangers

If the advantages of water are to be exploited, water-related dangers must be averted, by combining national interests with those of the regions and localities and modern technology with popular traditions in accordance with the country’s economic condition.

d. Intensify water resources management

The restoration of degraded water structures and the establishment of new structures of all sizes need to be properly balanced. Besides building water structures, water resources management needs to be intensified in order to make full use of investment capital and to achieve success.

e. Policy on community priority

Pay attention to water resources development in remote and mountainous areas, link water resources planning to social policies to supply adequate water to a growing number of people and make contributions to ‘hunger eradication and poverty elimination’ programmes and to settlement programmes.

f. Socialization of water resources services

Socialization of water resources services and management is implemented according to the motto: “Both the government and the people do.” At the same time, the government advocates rallying all popular efforts and encouraging foreign and domestic investment in water resources exploitation and construction of water structures based on democratic participation and equal benefit. To that end, the government has intensified public education through the mass media on the importance of water resources, by emphasizing that “water resources and water structures management is the people’s responsibility, obligation and right”.

g. Water financial policy

As water is of great value (water is considered as a commodity), it is necessary to make water financial policies to link water resources exploitation to the obligation of contributing capital. It is the way to afford the maintenance and improvement of water structures and protection against water-related dangers.


1. Surface water potential

Most of Viet Nam’s 332 000 km2 land spread consists of hills and mountains, not very high but very dangerous due to steep slopes. They make for a very complex network of rivers and streams. Due to the humid tropical climate and plentiful rainfall, water flows are easily formed, but the uneven distribution of rainfall makes them uneven as well. In Midland and mountainous areas, there are places that are short of water all year round or in the dry season, yet are flooded in the rainy season. In the plains, where numerous rivers have plentiful water resources throughout the year, the problem is to drain water in the rainy season.

The surface water either generated in or flowing through Viet Nam’s territory comes from rainwater over an area of 1 167 000 km2. The surface water potential is estimated at about 835 000 million m3 per year, though this number can fluctuate between 630 000-650 000 million m3 and 1 000 000 million m3. Water quality and quantity are affected by both natural and social factors. As 60 percent of Viet Nam’s surface water is generated outside the country, its potential is affected by the source countries’ socio-economic development.

With the present population, the water volume per capita is of about 4 000 m3 per year. According to the classification of the International Water Resources Association, a country with a water volume per capita of less than 4 000 m3 per year is considered a country of water shortage. Given population growth, Viet Nam is thus likely to experience a water crisis. All the more reason, then, to work out a national water vision which will include unified steps and a common strategy for the whole region and those countries in it sharing river basins. Water resources management under laws and stipulations is the key to proper usage and control.

2. Underground water potential

The estimate of the underground water potential, after many years of research, is still uncompleted. Hydrogeologists have given different estimates. However, the rough estimate is between 50 000 and 60 000 million m3, equal to 16-19 percent of the annual total runoff or of the total water volume of rivers in the dry season. Underground water is the supplementary source for rivers in the dry season. Yet, the exploitation of underground water in many regions reduces river water volume in the dry season.

3. Current situation of Viet Nam’s water resources

a. Increasing shortage of water

Increasing population reduces the volume of water per capita. In 1945, it was of 14 520 m3: now it is of 4 840 m3. If Viet Nam’s population were 150 million, the water volume per capita would be 2 420 m3 (as estimated from the internal runoff).

Due to climatic changes, the rainfall diminishes year after year. As the atmospheric temperature rises, so does evaporation. This leads to decreasing water resources and increasing water demand for irrigation. Therefore, the regions where the dry season lasts nine months and the annual rainfall is less than 1 500 mm can turn into deserts.

There is growing demand for water to increase the productivity of plants, to supply domestic needs, to develop industry, tourism, trade and services. Water overexploitation and overuse easily lead to serious contamination if proper measures are not taken.

b. Growing water perils
Severe storms occur more frequently. It is calculated that each decade has 1.6 times more storms than the previous one. Typhoons, causing the seawater level to rise by two metres, account for 11 percent of all storms. The sea level rises 0.2 cm annually. Coastal erosion and landslides become increasingly frequent and serious.

The highest amounts of rainfall per day can exceed 700 mm. In inland places such as Lai Chau or Kontum, daily rainfall of more than 300 mm has been recorded repeatedly. The shrinkage of source forests results in the probability of increasingly serious floods. Flash floods also occur more frequently in many places, particularly in small basins. The hydrogeology observation system is out of operation, however, so it is difficult to produce accurate figures.

The water flow in the dry season is diminishing due to decreasing rainfall and to two other factors: source forests no longer play their regulating role because of forest fires and deforestation, and water exploitation is implemented through a system of movable dams at river source. Therefore, in most places there are water shortages as early as February or March, one or two months earlier than used to be the case.

c. Worsening contamination of water
Water in lakes and rivers generally is good enough to meet people’s requirements. But around industrial zones, rivers, lakes and the sea can be seriously polluted. Increasing urbanization and industrialization have resulted in rampant water contamination. In the dry season, there is not enough water in lakes and rivers to dissolve waste and the contamination becomes worse. The overuse of fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture contaminates both surface and underground water.

The modernization and industrialization of agricultural production has caused new kinds of pollution, as with coffee-processing plants whose processing of beans for export demands a great amount of fresh water, later released as wastewater.

4. The demand for water

a. For hydro-agriculture

Water resources planning was seen as the first requisite to develop agricultural production. So, on the seven million hectares of cultivated land, 75 hydro-agricultural systems were created, 3 million ha were irrigated, 1.3 million ha drained and 0.7 million ha desalinated. From 1944 to 1999, the population tripled but the food output grew six-fold - from 4.9 million tons in 1944 to 33.8 million tons in 1999 (68 percent of it on irrigated and drained land). In 1998, although serious droughts occurred, the food output was maintained thanks to the contribution of hydro-agriculture. So far, 30 hydro-agricultural projects have been proposed or are under operation. However, the efficiency of the projects is still low, below 50 percent.
b. In urban areas
There are 200 water stations, supplying three million cubic metres of water per day to more than half of the population, at the per capita level of 50-60 litres per day in general and of 80-100 litres per day to the 60-70 percent of the population living in large cities. However, water profligacy is still high. The demand for drinking water increases rapidly. Eighty percent of the urban population is to be supplied with 80-100 litres of water per person per day by 2005, and 120-150 litres in the case of the 90 percent of the people living in large cities.
c. In rural areas
Supplying drinking water to rural areas has been undertaken in the last five years, so that, at present, 30 percent of the rural population is supplied with drinking water. According to plans, by 2005 80 percent of the rural population will have access to safe water, 50 percent of rural households will have sanitary lavatories, and 30 percent of the animal sheds and 10 percent of the handicraft villages will have waste treatment systems.
d. For hydroelectric development
Hydroelectricity has been the driving force of the power industry. By 1998, six large-scale and medium-sized hydroelectric stations supplied 2 844 MW, equal to 50 percent of electricity demand countrywide. The 720 MW Yali station came into operation at the end of 1999 and two more stations are under construction. Sixty percent of the country is electrified, with a nearly one-hundred-percent coverage of plains. In coming years, hydroelectricity will continue to spearhead the power industry. Seven large-scale hydroelectric schemes with a total capacity of more than 5 000 MW will be introduced after the year 2000.
e. Total water demand
Viet Nam’s population continues to grow rapidly. It is estimated to reach 93 million by 2010 and 126 million by 2040. Deforestation and water contamination have made the water volume per capita dwindle. Total water demand for agriculture, industry and domestic use, which was 65 000 million m3 in 1990, is estimated to be 72 000 million m3 in 2000 and 90 000 million m3 by 2010. These numbers still lags behind world figures.

Under the current water exploitation, which uses up two thirds of the inflow water and leaves the rest to preserve the ecosystem, it is impossible for Viet Nam to balance water demand and supply. A national programme has recommended increasing useful water capacity to 70 000 million m3 between 2010 and 2020. Actually, such a recommendation is absurd, because for the past few decades, the useful water capacity from reservoirs has been of 18 000 million m3 only and only two percent of the average flow regimes have been exploited. Therefore building more water infrastructure is important, but the solution is to manage water usage. Given the danger of water withdrawal in coming times, it is essential to find more efficient approaches than traditional ones, which are inefficient.


1. Water resources planning and development

Water resources planning has been developed both in depth and in range. So far, planning in river basins and internal areas, though incomplete, has met real needs by:

The scheme to control and exploit the Red River is the most important among hydraulic schemes in the North. The Red River scheme includes:

The water resources planning directions have proved logical. Constantly updated research has dealt with water demand by urban and rural inhabitants, for crop cultivation, animal husbandry and fishery. Yet the issue of water demand to sustain the ecosystem has not been addressed.

2. Water policies and strategy

Viet Nam has not issued any policies or strategy on water except several guidelines applied to water-related branch agencies at different levels. Those guidelines are extracted from specialized documents such as documents for long-term hydro-agricultural plans, irrigation and drainage fee, rural drinking water supply and hydroelectric development.

The Law on Water Resources deals with “the making of strategies, plans and policies on water resources protection, exploitation, use and development and their water-related consequences”. While the law had yet to come into effect, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and relevant authorities at the conference of foreign donors formulated a strategy on water resources development and management until 2010 as follows:

a. Water investment policy

In recent years, the government has funded many water resources development projects but these projects have not achieved consistent results. Every year water-related branch agencies submit their plans to the government, yet they do not consult with one another, especially about basin or inter-basin water balance. Therefore the Law on Water Resources should include articles on water protection, exploitation and use in harmony with river basin planning. As there is no national programme of water resources management, the investment in this field does not match the demand.

b. Capital return policy

All investment capital has been spent on building hydroelectric plants, as hydro-energy is considered a profitable commodity with quick returns. Lately, it has been suggested that hydro-energy can be replaced by thermoelectricity produced from incidental gas and cheap coal. Investment priorities should be defined in terms of national energy balance and useful exploitation of renewable and non-renewable natural resources.

Hydroelectricity can be profitable, so some say that beneficiaries should finance the construction of multipurpose reservoirs, which are essential to hydroelectric stations. Now, only the power agencies finance it. Therefore the government should require contributions from beneficiaries, get the people to know the cost of flood prevention and the risk of water shortage in river basins, so that beneficiaries and water users see the value of water and save water.

c. Capital mobilization policy

Since 1960, Viet Nam has issued the policy saying that both the government and the people jointly develop hydraulic structures. The 1999 report on hydro-agricultural fixed assets shows that government expenditure accounted for 83 percent and capital contributed by the people 17 percent. The policy of mobilizing capital from water users has been applied to rural drinking water development programmes. It is planned that by 2020 up to 100 percent of the capital in most areas, or up to 10 percent in poor regions, will be mobilized from water users. Therefore, to solve the issue of capital, it is essential to have proper policies in order to attract the participation of all economic sectors, i.e. the State, private companies and ordinary water users.

3. Legal documents on water

a. The Law on Water Resources

The Law on Water Resources began to be formulated in the late 1980s ahead of laws on other natural resources and it was submitted to the National Congress. As water has always been part of people’s lives, it is very difficult to persuade them to abandon old ways of handling water in favour of managing water resources in a professional way.

The Law on Water Resources was approved by the National Congress in May 1998 and came into effect in January 1999, but implementation decrees have yet to be signed. The law provides general rules on water resources management, as follows:

However, the following issues should be clarified:

b. Other laws relating to water

The other water-related laws are the Law on Forest Protection and Development (1991) and the Law on Environment Protection (1993). In the implementation of these laws, the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment (MOSTE) has issued rules and regulations on water usage, water quality and water contamination. The authority of the two ministries concerned with water management should be distinguished: MOSTE takes care of water quality in the environment as a whole while MARD manages water in terms of usage and volume.

4. Water resources management

a. Water resources management on a professional basis

Water resources management is a new development, thus it is essential to train a contingent of professionals skilled in its methods. Viet Nam’s advantage is that the country took early action in sustainable water resources management and has received international support in this field.

b. The system of information management

At present, although there are documents relating to water resources management in the relevant branch agencies, these documents are not consistent. Therefore, a mechanism needs to be set up for branch agencies to exchange information. The Law on Water Resources has defined this duty.

c. The system of water research management

MOSTE manages scientific research at the national level; other ministries manage scientific research at the ministerial level. In terms of water-related technology, there have been considerable achievements in the construction of hydraulic structures and in water resources exploitation, but insufficient attention has been paid to water resources management, use and conservation.

5. Participation in planning and management

a. Joint participation approach

There has been some coordination among the relevant authorities, yet such coordination lacks efficiency. International experts highly regard ‘joint participation’ and embodied the concept in the second Dublin rule. The joint participation approach can be defined as follows:

This concept was refined in the third Dublin rule, but it is not popular in Viet Nam.

b. The role of the local community

Viet Nam has issued similar policies, inspired by the “of the people, by the people and for the people” slogan, and has legislated people rights and locality rights. The people have the right to participate in the national programmes on clean water and environmental hygiene by contributing ideas; the right to decide is left to the Communal People’s Council and Committee. However, there are no similar regulations for hydro-agriculture. The water resources sector has set up pilot water cooperatives and associations, upholding the role of local water user communities. These organizations are considered as its agents.


1. Aggregate water resources management

In conferences and forums on water resources, Viet Nam has expressed her determination to guarantee water and ecosystem sustainability and has supported the view on aggregate water resources management that making full use of water and other natural resources implies conserving the environment. In this context, the Global Water Partnership has made the following three points:

Globally, aggregate water resources management was agreed to unanimously in conferences on water resources and the environment held in Dublin (January 1992) and in Rio de Janeiro (June 1992) as follows:

The Pacific-Asian consultative conference on water held by ADB in June 1996 issued seven strategic guidelines, as follows:

2. Water vision for 2025

Viet Nam has set up a water vision subcommittee, which held a conference on the national water vision. The conference centred on:

The conference did contribute to building visions and frameworks of action on water resources in Southeast Asia and the world.

The water vision was formulated through exchanges on water resources development possibilities among water experts. The experts paid special attention to obstacles and incentives to developing a water vision, and to ways of attracting the participation of as many relevant professionals as possible.

The incentives include:

Experts analysing the World Water Vision came up with three scenarios: (1) evolutionary world and water, (2) water crisis and (3) sustainable world and water. These are useful references for the analysis of a Vietnamese water vision.

A national workshop entitled ‘Water in the 21st century: vision and action’ was held in Hanoi on 7-8 March 2000. It concluded that Viet Nam’s water vision is the integrated and sustainable use of water resources and the effective prevention and mitigation of harm caused by water. This implies:

3. Framework for action

The framework for action aims at:

The framework for action on water does not provide detailed programmes or lists of development projects. Its aim is not only to call for government funds and international support but also to mobilize internal resources and participation by the state sector as well as the private sector.

The workshop also drew a list of actions for a better future for water, life and the environment, as follows:

a) Integrated water resources management to provide sufficient water for domestic, economic and social uses, a sustainable environment, and flood control

b) Changed views on water and water management

c) Strategy, policies and reasonable mechanisms in water management

d) Demand and water usage management

e) Equitable and reasonable allocation of water

f) Technological research in water saving and water efficiency

g) Basin approach in integrated water resources management

h) Partnership among stakeholders for integrated water resources management

i) Balance between water usage and ecosystem preservation through river basin planning

j) Decision-supporting systems for integrated water resources management

k) International cooperation on shared watercourses

l) Awareness and political will, institutional strengthening and capacity building for integrated water resources management

m) Renovation of investment policies and mechanisms in the development and management of the water infrastructure

n) Water governance to be separate from water services

o) Establishment of a water management organizational system at central, basin and local levels

p) Establishment of a synchronized and comprehensive legal framework

q) Capacity building

r) Effective water services

s) Institutional strengthening of water services in view of accountability and self-sufficiency

t) Water is recognized as a tradable commodity

u) Strategy for the development of water services with the participation of multiple sectors and the water user community

v) Construction, rehabilitation and efficient management of the water infrastructure


1. Workshop organization

On 25-26 April 2000, the Institute of Water Resources Planning (IWRP) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in cooperation with ESCAP and FAO, organized a roundtable workshop in Hanoi with 36 participants - 24 officials of the ministry, 11 officials from related ministries and one NGO representative. The list of participants and the programme of the workshop are attached as Appendix 1 and Appendix 2 respectively.

The workshop started with the presentation of three papers prepared by ESCAP, FAO and IWRP. After a brief exposition of strategic planning techniques, the workshop was divided into working groups to identify priority actions to be carried out to realize the national water vision. The following conclusions and recommendations were the results of the workshop deliberations, mostly carried out by the working groups.

2. Conclusions

The participants reconfirmed the national water vision worked out in the national seminar on this subject in Hanoi a month earlier. The details of the national water vision adopted are attached as Appendix 3.

In order to implement the national water vision, the participants recognized the need to integrate it into the national socio-economic development process. For this purpose, the participants were convinced of the need to adopt a new methodology to planning and management and therefore agreed to adopt a “strategic planning and management” approach for the implementation of the national water vision. With such an approach, strategic plans can be established for all sectors or sub-regions or river basins of the country to facilitate coordination and monitoring of the implementation of the vision.

Due to time constraints, it was agreed to focus on four items: (a) overall implementation of the national water vision, (b) water for people: water supply and sanitation, (c) water for food and rural development, and (d) application of the national water vision to the Red River basin. These items were discussed within the following framework:

3. Summary of priority actions

Group 1: overall implementation of the national water vision

Group 2: water for people - water supply and sanitation

Group 3: water for food and rural development

Group 4: Implementation of the Red River basin vision

4. Recommendation

According to the plan for the implementation of the Water Resources Law, important developments are due to take place soon. Among these will be the establishment of the National Water Resources Council and of the Red River Basin Commission. These bodies are expected to play important roles in the adoption and implementation of the national water vision, including coordination among sectors and sub-regions. In order to prepare for the national process of implementation and in view of the keen interest of all participants in the strategic planning and management approach, it was recommended that assistance be provided to the respective national agencies to strengthen their capacity in strategic planning and management.


Hanoi, 25-26 April 2000






Dr To Trung Nghia



Dr Pham The Chien

Chief of Division


Mr Vu Hong Chau

Chief of Division


Mr Nguyen Thi Phuong Lam

Acting Chief of Division


Mr Tran Van Nau

Chief of Division


Mr Truong Trong Luat

Acting Chief of Division


Mr Dang Ngoc Vinh

Chief of Division


Mr Tran Dinh Thac

Chief of Division


Mr Nguyen Van Dam

Chief of Division


Mr La Song Toan

Chief of Division


Mr Le Phuong Van

Deputy Chief of Division


Mr Lam Hung Son

Deputy Chief of Division


Mrs Nguyen Le My



Mr Thai Gia Khanh

Deputy Chief of Division

Mr Le Tien Phong




Mr Dao Trong Tu

International Cooperation Department


Dr Dang Dinh Phuc

Department of Water Resources Management


Mr Vu Tien Luc

Department of Water Resources Management


Dr Tran Dinh Hoi

Vietnam Institute for Water Resources Research


Mr Tran Si Trung

Vietnam Institute for Water Resources Research


Dr Prof Ngo Dinh Tuan

Hanoi Water Resources University


Dr Vu Cong Lan

National Institute for Agricultural Planning


Mr Hoang Si Dong

National Institute for Forestry Planning


Mr Le Van Can

National Programme for Rural Water Supply & Environment Sanitation


Mrs Nguyen Thi Minh Tam

Vietnam National Mekong Commission



Mr Nguyen Tien Trong

Department of Planning & Investment


Mrs Do Hong Phan

Vietnam Union of Science & Technology Associations


Dr Dang Trong Khanh

Science, Technology & Environment Development & Strategy Institute


Mr Nguyen Van Trang

Power Investigation & Design Company No.1


Mr Pham Anh Tuan

Urban & Rural Planning Institute


Mr Truong Manh Tien

Department of Science, Technology & the Environment


Mr Nguyen Qui Hung

Transport, Development & Strategy Institute


Dr Tran Thanh Xuan

Institute of Meteorology & Hydrology


Hanoi, 25-26 April 2000

25 April 2000: Day 1




Welcoming address

Dr To Trung Nghia, IWRP
Dr Le Huu Ti, ESCAP
Mr Thierry Facon, FAO


Presentation and discussion
‘A conceptual approach to the formulation of a national water vision for action’

Dr Le Huu Ti, ESCAP


Presentation & discussion
‘Overview of the water vision for food, agriculture and rural development - strategic choices for countries’

Mr Thierry Facon, FAO


Coffee break


Presentation & discussion

‘Vision on water, life and the environment in the 21st century’

Dr To Trung Nghia, IWRP




Working group

Dr Le Huu Ti, ESCAP


Coffee break


Group presentation

26 April 2000: Day 2


Group discussion


Coffee break


Group discussion


Group presentation


Closing session

Dr Le Huu Ti, ESCAP
Mr Thierry Facon, FAO
Dr To Trung Nghia, IWRP


*Organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations and the Global Water Partnership South East Asian Technical Advisory Committee

Hanoi, 7-8 March 2000

National vision and action for water in Viet Nam in the 21st century

The Vietnamese water vision is the integrated and sustainable use of water resources with effective prevention and mitigation of harm caused by water.

The Vietnamese action for a better future for water, life and the environment

1. Integrated water resources management to provide sufficient water for domestic, economic and social uses, a sustainable environment, and flood control

2. Basin approach to integrated water resources management

3. Awareness and political will, institutional strengthening and capacity building for integrated water resources management

4. Effective water services


1. Obstacles and challenges

2. Solutions

In the context of increasing demand for water, decreasing water potential and worsening environment pollution, the following solutions are proposed:

These solutions should be carried out simultaneously, with the participation of all water-related bodies: the State, investors and beneficiaries. It is essential to combine persuasion with administrative and economic measures to deal with issues. The formulation of national plans and strategies on water resources development should be carried out forthwith.

3. Potential for 2025

The government has defined targets for developing a stable and sustainable economy, society and environment. The water potential in the 21st century is as follows:

a. In the first decade

b. In following decades


According to the plan for the ongoing implementation of the water vision, IWRP has come up with strategic guidelines on water vision and action, as follows:

1. Properly use land resources in accordance with the sustainable development of water resources

2. Use, manage and develop water resources in a proper, comprehensive and sustainable manner

3. Protect the environment

4. Improve the methodology for water resources planning

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