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In Vietnam, Control of Mekong River Boosts Incomes

Last updated: Jun 2, 2008
Mekong Delta Water Resources Project (1999-2007)

In 1999, the Mekong Delta’s agriculture accounted for 30% of Vietnam’s GDP and more than 80% of its rice exports. However, without appropriate infrastructure, the delta’s many canals and irrigation networks were vulnerable to salt water intruding from the South China Sea during the dry season and flooding during the rain season, thereby threatening the quality of farm soil and the reliability of harvests. Poor drinking water supply and inadequate rural transport also held back production levels and rural incomes.

  • The Mekong Delta Water Resources project sought to rehabilitate water control infrastructure- salinity intrusion, irrigation, drainage, flood protection and rural drinking water supply - in 5 subproject areas covering more than 500,000 ha, to enhance productivity of the agricultural sector and increase rural incomes.
  • Engineering plans were modified during project implementation to introduce greater flexibility in the operation of sluice gates and allow a shift in land use from rice to cash crops and aquaculture.

Substantially improved availability of freshwater supplies for irrigation and ability to control salinity and floods in the delta..

  • Overall agricultural production has decreased slightly because of the change in cropping patterns toward more mixed uses (rice + shrimp or rice + cash crops for example), but productivity per crop has increased. The average yield for double rice cropping has increased from 4.7 t/ha in 1999 to 5.3 t/ha in 2007. The average productivity of rearing fish and shrimp in rice fields has tripled.
  • Sluice gates help contain seasonal floods to allow farmers to complete their harvest.
  • Average farmers’ income has doubled between 1999 and 2007 from VND 300,000 to VND 625,000 (about $1,000).
  • Connection rate to clean water supply has gone from about 40-30% in 1999 to about 75% at the end of 2007. About 1 million people are likely to benefit from the expansion of clean water and improved sanitation facilities.
  • 41 main sluice gates and 125 secondary sluice gates built. Over 1,000 km of primary and secondary canals dredged and enlarged.
  • 234 km of dikes protecting towns from floods. The impact is especially noteworthy in the O Mon – Xa No area, entirely protected by a ring dike system.
  • The delta is to some extent better prepared to withstand rising sea levels and weather catastrophes. 
  • The doubling of water fee collections envisaged by the project did not occur: a government decree exempted all farmers and individuals from paying water fees from 1 January 2008.

  • IDA credit of $102 million out of total project cost of $148 million.
  • Regular supervision and meetings with local authorities helped accelerate the process of land acquisition and resettlement of households affected by the construction of new infrastructure.
  • AusAid conducted a study on Delta-wide water resources management.

  • The project’s impact will be sustained provided proper attention is paid to operation and maintenance. Because of the decision to exempt farmers from water service fees, heavy subsidies will be needed to maintain the newly created infrastructure. But beneficiary farmers whose livelihoods depend on irrigation and drainage are likely to continue to use the new facilities effectively.
  • Further investments in sea dikes and sluices could help the delta cope with the effects of climate change (droughts, floods and rising sea levels).
  • Investment in agricultural processing, marketing techniques and information technology could help maximize the impact of irrigation infrastructure.

For more information, please visit the Projects website.

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