In 2017, the Vietnamese Government issued the Resolution No.120/NQ-CP on climate resilient and sustainable development of the Mekong River Delta (MRD) that has demonstrated a strategic vision with the policy of “thuận thiên” (nature-based) development to proactively address challenges caused by climate change and exploitation of Mekong River's water resources in order to realize its full potentials, capabilities, strengths, creating a strong momentum for the development of MRD. After more than three years implementing the Resolution, the nature-based orientation has gradually proved to be efficient, creating a fundamental change in the awareness, rationale and actions of all levels, sectors and local agencies in the MRD with active participation of people and enterprises and supports from international organizations and development partners. Although the implementation time has not been very long, there have been some remarkable achievements, specifically as follows:
Some highlighted achievements
Enabling institutions and policies to promote sustainable development in the MDR
In recent years, many mechanisms and policies have been studied and proposed for investment for sustainable development of the MDR, particularly in some areas such as renewable energy and energy efficiency, environmental infrastructure and engineering, agriculture and aquaculture, food processing and related transportation services… As a result, they have supported to attract enterprises to invest heavily in agriculture, strengthening the linkage of four actors, including managers, investors, scientists and farmers, to improve the value chain, creating a foothold for agricultural products in the world market; amending land policies to remove bottlenecks to create an open mechanism to attract investment. The promulgation of the Reform Action Framework for mechanisms and policies for the MRD served as the basis to attract resources contributing toward the development of specific mechanisms and policies for sustainable development in the MRD.
In addition, Ministries, in their competence, have issued mechanisms and policies for regional development, such as preferential policies to encourage investors to become the nucleus for the restructuring of the agricultural sector towards modernization, application of high technologies, increase in added value and competitiveness, climate change adaptation and administrative reform in order to promote the wave of start-ups in agriculture and rural areas. On that basis, businesses and foreign investors have implemented many projects in the fields of agriculture, transportation and renewable energy... contributing to changing the face of the MRD and promoting the economic development of the country.
Proactively adapting to climate change by enhancing climate monitoring capacity, early weather forecasting and timely warning of natural disasters
Ministries, sectors and local agencies have strengthened investigations, surveys, warnings and forecasts in the fields of environment and climate change contributing to socio-economic development according to the Resolution's nature-based orientation, demonstrating in the following aspects: Strengthening the monitoring network of hydro-meteorology, oceanography, mud and sand fluctuations, automatic rain measurement; Actively investigating, surveying, exploring, searching and rationally exploiting water resources for daily use and production in the MRD in dry seasons and saline intrusion periods. Agricultural production has been gradually transformed to form large-scale concentrated production areas, specializing in key products (shrimp, pangasius, rice, fruit) applying processing and consumption technology along the value chain of agricultural products, in line with the policy for increasing production of seafood, fruits and reducing production of rice. It also focuses on exploiting potentials of clean energy and renewable energy. Many economic models suitable to natural conditions, with high-tech application and climate change adaptation have been deployed and developed by local agencies, for example the sustainable shrimp farming model; selecting, breeding and developing varieties of plants, animals and aquatic varieties with potentials and strengths of the region. Besides, ecological strengths, cultural and history heritages are conserved and developed, thereby promoting tourism and service economy in the MRD.
Forming the development space, and infrastructure planning connecting within the region and with Hồ Chí Minh City, the Southeast region
On the basis of promoting advantages and spillover effects of development in Hồ Chí Minh City and the Southern key economic region with the MDR, the development of inter-regional connectivity in terms of infrastructure and economy has been instructed by the Prime Minister, including developing inter-regional traffic routes, forming large-scale industrial parks and cities to ensure the overall connectivity. The exploitation of sand from river bed for ground levelling is gradually limited through the promulgation of 20 technical standards and guidelines on the use of ash, slag and gypsum as raw materials for construction material production and use in construction works.
Environmental protection in rural areas has received attention and investment, especially in domestic waste and wastewater treatment in residential areas and improvement of landscape, environmental protection equipment support. Solid waste management has been strengthened together with the implementation of investment projects on solid waste treatment facilities, wastewater collection and treatment systems. The project of MRD safe water supply has been implemented, ensuring sufficient water supply capacity and quality for water and social security.
The MDR Regional Coordination Council was established with operational regulation to advise, propose and assist the Prime Minister in instructing, coordinating, examining and supervising the implementation of regional linkage and climate resilient and sustainable development of the MRD. At the same time, Coordination Groups at ministerial and provincial level and expert advisory groups have been formed to assist the Council effectively, advise the Prime Minister on specific mechanisms, policies, strategies, plans, programs and projects of regional and inter-regional scale for climate resilient and sustainable development of the MRD. It provides the initial foundation for the formation and implementation of mechanisms and policies more suitable to the MDR’s natural features and socio-economic conditions in order remove barriers and effectively release resources in the future.
Promoting public investment as seed capital to encourage the investment from private sector and the international community for sustainable development of the MRD
In recent years, as a tectonic government, the Government and the Prime Minister have always paid attention to and promoted public investment as catalyst for resolving urgent livelihood issues. The Government has also issued many preferential mechanisms and policies on taxes and fees to encourage investment and development of the agricultural sector, such as exemption of corporate income tax for crop and livestock production, farming and processing agricultural products of cooperatives; personal income tax exemption for individuals directly engaged in agricultural production, forestry, salt production...; exemption of agricultural land use tax; exemption of registration fees for land assigned by the State for agricultural production purpose; exemption of irrigation fees, credit policy for building, upgrading ships, subsidizing interest rates; credit for local socio-economic infrastructure development projects from the Local Development Investment Fund.
Strengthening scientific research, technology development, international cooperation and awareness-raising communication
Scientific research and technology development activities have been invested in to provide scientific and practical bases for sustainable development of the MDR in a fundamental and systematic manner with a long-term vision such as studying, selecting and breeding plant varieties, soil improvement; prevention of natural disasters, land subsidence, landslide of river banks and coastlines; research on changes in water resources, water quality and proposal of appropriate exploitation solutions to change production structure; surface water monitoring and drought warning; assessing the causes of riverbank erosion in some key areas and propose orientations for structural and non-structural solutions; testing and proposing solutions and technologies to prevent, combat and mitigate the impacts of natural disasters and overcoming their consequences; developing the climate change monitoring system in the MRD...
Communication and awareness raising activities have been strengthened through the propaganda project for implementation of Resolution No. 120/NQ-CP, propaganda activities on sustainable development of the MDR with climate change adaptation. From 2017 up to now, the topic of the MDR’s sustainable development with climate change adaptation has been promoted by Central and local press agencies with diverse contents and forms such as films and newspaper articles; formulating and disseminating materials to raise the community’s awareness of mangrove forest development and protection in some provinces of the MDR.
International cooperation is promoted to attract resources, knowledge and technology for the MRD. Việt Nam has proactively participated in many bilateral and multilateral cooperation frameworks for developing the MRD’s sub-regions, including cooperation mechanisms for Mekong-Japan, Mekong-South Korea, and the GMS (Greater Mekong Subregion), Mekong- Lancang, Mekong - Ganges, CLMV, ACMECS, US-Mekong Partnership. In particular, in 2020, Việt Nam as Chair of ASEAN proactively connect the MRD in ASEAN to find a common voice on the importance of sub-regional development.
Overall assessment, limitations, causes and challenges
After more than 3 years implementing the Resolution, it can be confirmed that the MRD has witness significant changes in the nature-based and sustainable direction. Accordingly, people's livelihood has been gradually improved and the MRD’s development picture is increasingly painted with many bright colors. Particularly, the development space forming through transport infrastructure connection, regional connectivity has been progressing that has changed the MRD’s outlook. GDP growth has been maintained at high level, with 2018 and 2019 recording impressive rate of about 7,3%. The cultural and spiritual life has been gradually improved. At the same time, traditional cultural values of the region have been gradually conserved, developed and effectively exploited to serve people in the MRD, in the country as well as international tourists. Diseases have been monitored, controlled and tend to decrease. The rate of rural households having hygienic latrines in the MRD in 2019 reached 62% (an increase of 6.7% compared to 2017).
On the other hand, there have been limitations in the implementation of the Resolution No. 120/NQ-CP. Over the past three years, the Government and the Prime Minister have closely instructed Ministries and local agencies to promulgate, supplement and improve a number of mechanisms and policies for the MDR. Nevertheless, these mechanisms and policies require time to be effective. Many works and projects that are being inter-regional, inter-sectoral, and large-scale are still slow in implementation. The mechanism to attract investment from the private sector and the society still faces many difficulties and it has not yet been able to make a breakthrough, especially due to the impacts of Covid-19 pandemic. Infrastructure projects still lack synchronous connection, multi-purposes to create a driving force for developing markets for agricultural products as advantages of the region such as rice, fruit, and aquatic product markets. Scientific research, basic survey and database have just recently been focused in recent times, so they have not provided enough scientific basis and support for the planning and policy-making process. The region's strengths in agriculture, tourism and sea have not yet been made clear to propose effective solutions.
There have been also many challenges in MRD. Climate change and natural disasters are happening faster, more complicated and continue to be unpredictable due to the volatility and extreme events, especially short-term impacts. In the context of global efforts to respond to climate change, especially reduction of greenhouse gases emission has not yet met the exception under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as well as the Paris Agreement, MRD will continue to face many adverse impacts in the near future. The exploitation and use of water resources upstream, especially the deployment of hydro-power projects on the Mekong mainstream, has been increasingly complicated, while the sub-regional coordination mechanism has indicated shortcomings and difficulties, leading to low efficiency. The lack of sand, alluvial and water is expected to exacerbate seriously, negatively impacting the MRD’s development. Resolution No. 120/NQ-CP has just been implemented for more than 3 years and is only at the beginning stage, while the objectives, visions and tasks in the Resolution are strategic and long-term. Therefore, it needs more time and resources to fully implement.
Recommendations for promoting sustainable development of the mekong delta in the period 2021 - 2025, with a vision to 2030
Finalizing institutional and policy mechanisms
Reviewing, supplementing and improving the system of mechanisms and policies specified in the Resolution and the overall Action Program, especially the mechanism for resource mobilization through public-private partnership, land concentration for large-scale conversion, flexible planning of rice-growing areas in order to be proactive in restructuring production in accordance with natural conditions each year.
Urgently issuing the MRD Master Plan for the period of 2021 - 2030, with a vision to 2050 as the basis for implementing the MRD’s socio-economic development plan; synchronously implementing tasks and solutions to develop the MRD’s provinces and cities in accordance with Resolutions of the Party and the State .
Prioritizing to allocate resources to implement investment projects in infrastructure, transportation, irrigation, prevention of riverbank and coastal erosion for the purpose of production
Urgently supplementing capital to implement the MRD Development Policy Operation (DPO) under the allocated amount for specific tasks and projects, including connectivity projects, projects with inter-regional impacts, projects serving as driving force for rapid and sustainable socio-economic development. Supplementing investment capital for the MRD’s sustainable development through financial institutions and credit institutions including the Vietnam Environment Protection Fund. Investing in multi-purpose infrastructure projects, with regional and inter-regional connection in terms of irrigation, transportation, economic activities, promoting economic restructuring, trade development, creating value chains for products in the MRD.
Implementing programs, projects approved by the Prime Minister: Overall Program for Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agricultural Development in the MRD to 2030, with a vision to 2045, Irrigation Modernization Scheme for Sustainable Agricultural Development in Ecological Sub-regions of the MRD, Scheme for Riverbank and Coastal erosion prevention and control to 2030, Scheme for Safe Water Supply in the MRD, Restructuring Plan for Agricultural Sector in the period 2021 - 2025...
Strengthening basic investigation, monitoring, forecasting and completing the database system
Strengthening investigation and assessment of land resources; investigating, evaluating and developing water storage solutions based on natural trends of each sub-region. Improving the MRD Data Integration Center, building and updating the MRD database system for climate change adaptation, connecting with the database of the International Mekong River Commission and other countries in the Mekong River Basin.
Investing to increase the number of monitoring stations for hydro-meteorology, environment, water resources, landslide, land subsidence, saline intrusion to provide information, data, forecast analysis for the MRD Data Integration Center to develop strategies, planning, policies for development and other socio-economic activities in the region. Strengthening capacity of hydro-meteorological forecasting, early warning of natural disasters and extreme weather events. Developing the system of monitoring, forecasting and early warning of changes in water resources, covering the upstream, the entire basin, riverbank and in coastal subsidence and erosion.
Continuing to investigate and search for underground water sources, especially deep-lying aquifers for domestic water supply in areas with frequent salt water intrusion; developing groundwater exploitation facilities to be ready to respond to saline intrusion when necessary. Proactively and closely monitoring water exploitation and use in the basin, collecting information and data on the basin situation from many other sources (from projects, with remote sensing technology...).
Promoting large-scale transformation, speeding up rational restructuring
As for agriculture: Developing agriculture in 3 sub-regions (upper delta, midlands and coastal areas), taking into consideration agricultural ecosystems in each sub-region. Shifting the strategic pillar to seafood - fruit - rice; increasing the production value of aquatic products and fruits, decreasing the production of rice.
As for industry and commerce: Taking advantage of the strengths, pervasiveness and development of Hồ Chí Minh City region to strongly promote industry to create a driving force for regional development; forming specialized industrial zones and clusters in line with key regions and strengths of local areas in the region; focusing on the development of processing and supporting industries to increase the value of agricultural products; promoting clean and renewable energy. Taking advantage of the connection between Hồ Chí Minh City and Cambodia to promote trade and services.
As for tourism: Developing agricultural eco-systems in the MRD as a foundation for tourism development, associated with coastal mangrove forest protection and development, and biodiversity conservation; developing fruit garden tourism... Attracting investment to develop supporting services. Strengthening vocational tourism service training, contributing to sustainable career transition for rural workers.
Promoting science, technology and international cooperation
Promoting scientific research, developing, transferring and applying technology, especially achievements of the industrial revolution 4.0 to agricultural production, industry and services gearing towards digital economic development, digital transformation based on potentials and strengths of the region. Shortly approving and implementing the Science and Technology Program for responding to climate change for the sustainable development of MRD in the period 2021 - 2025.
Proactively proposing, establishing and leading new cooperation frameworks to effectively mobilize investment, technology and knowledge support from development partners; sustainable exploitation and use of water resources, especially in Mekong sub-regions to ensure the benefits of Việt Nam. Prioritizing the promotion of cooperation activities on water resources within the framework of Mekong-Lancang Cooperation to reach an agreement with China on data and information sharing, especially information about the operation of hydro-power dams and the discharge of water to downstream, ensuring the minimum flow of rivers at an appropriate level.
Human resource training and development
Strengthening high-quality human resource training programs to meet the trends of regional and international investment shift. Promoting career transition and job creation for agricultural and rural workers in the direction of specialization and professionalization, supporting farmers to become real agricultural workers, gradually moving agricultural workers to the service sector so that people can participate actively, acting as the center of production and livelihood transformation process, meeting the demand of economic development in the region.
(Source: Vietnam Environment Administration Magazine, English Edition I - 2021)