In 1999, agriculture in the Mekong Delta accounted for 30 percent of Vietnam’s GDP and more than 80 percent of its rice exports. However, without appropriate infrastructure, the delta’s many canals and irrigation networks were vulnerable to salt water intrusion from the South China Sea during the dry season, threatening land arability, and to flooding during the rainy season, putting harvests in danger. Poor drinking water supplies and inadequate rural transport also held down production levels and rural incomes.
The IDA supported Mekong Delta Water Resources Project sought to develop water control infrastructure to prevent salinity intrusion and promote irrigation, drainage, flood protection and improved rural drinking water supplies. Five subproject areas covering more than 500,000 hectares were targeted to boost agricultural productivity and rural incomes.
Freshwater supplies for irrigation were substantially improved along with the ability to control salinity and floods in the delta.
- About 1 million people were expected to benefit from project expansion of clean water supplies and improvements in sanitation facilities, with the connection rate to potable water sources increasing from 30–40 percent of the population living in the delta in 1999 to 75 percent at the end of 2007.
- Farmers’ incomes doubled on average between 1999 and 2007, from VND 300,000 (less than US$500) to VND 625,000 (about US$1,000).
- Crop productivity has risen, with the average yield for double rice cropping increasing from 4.7 tons/hectare in 1999 to 5.3 tons/hectare in 2007.
- Sluice gates have helped contain seasonal floods to allow farmers to complete their harvest. Forty-one main sluice gates and 125 secondary sluice gates have been built. Over 1,000 kilometers of primary and secondary canals were also dredged and enlarged.
- To protect towns from floods, 234 kilometers of dikes were constructed.
- The delta is now better prepared to withstand rising sea levels and catastrophic weather.
- The doubling of water fee collections envisaged by the project did not occur: a government decree has exempted all farmers and individuals from paying water fees since January 2008.
- An IDA credit of US$102 million financed a bit more than two-thirds of the total project cost of US$148 million.
- Regular supervision and meetings with local authorities helped accelerate the process of land acquisition for, and the resettlement of households affected by, construction of new infrastructure.
During project implementation AusAid provided a technical assistance grant of about $US300, 000 for a study of delta-wide water resource management. Recommendations from this research on new institutional reforms to improve agricultural water use are being considered by the government.
- The project’s impact will be sustained, provided proper attention is paid to operation and maintenance of infrastructure. Because of the decision to exempt farmers from water service fees, heavy subsidies will be needed to maintain the newly created infrastructure. On the other hand, 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 and information technology could help maximize the impact of irrigation infrastructure.