Mekong Delta Plan opens a new chapter in our partnership with the Vietnamese water sector, says Melanie Schultz van Haegen

In Hanoi today, Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment Melanie Schultz van Haegen presented the Dutch-Vietnamese Mekong Delta Plan to Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai. The Delta Plan contains a long-term vision for the delta, with practical recommendations for its safe and sustainable development.

Proud

‘The Mekong Delta Plan opens a new chapter in our bilateral relations,’ said Ms Schultz. ‘I am proud to be presenting it today. I am convinced that this plan will help to make the delta safer and bring more prosperity to Vietnam. And I hope that it will present our two countries with new opportunities for cooperation.’ The Dutch and Vietnamese governments worked closely together for two years to produce the Mekong Delta Plan. The work was coordinated by Cees Veerman, special adviser to Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. Mr Veerman is the former chair of the Sustainable Coastal Development Committee (2007-2008) and a former Dutch Minister of Agriculture (2002-2007). The Delta Plan enjoys broad support – from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and countries such as Australia, Finland and Germany.

Vulnerable

The Mekong Delta and the Dutch river delta have much in common. Both are densely populated, with around 17 million inhabitants. Both are fertile and both are major economic centres. They are vulnerable to flooding and will be among the first to be confronted with the consequences of climate change: rising sea levels and more extreme weather conditions. ‘The Netherlands sees it as an important mission to share its knowledge and expertise in the field of water management,’ said Ms Schultz. ‘Now that the Mekong Delta Plan is finished, it is time to turn words into deeds. The Netherlands is keen to help.’

Measures

This is the first time that the Dutch Delta Programme has been exported and adapted to another region. The Mekong Delta Plan presents not only a vision for the long term (up to 2100), but also measures for the short (to 2025) and medium term (2026-2050). It contains recommendations on legislation and finance, and should serve as a basis for further regional and sub-regional planning. The Delta Plan also contains guidelines for government, donors and international financial institutions on moving from planning to implementation and placing investment projects in a long-term context. ‘The challenge in Vietnam is not to prevent flooding, because floods provide a major contribution to the viability of the system,’ said Ms Schultz. ‘What matters here is to deal with the high annual discharges as sensibly as possible, and with salinisation of farmland, drought, insufficient irrigation capacity and threats to valuable ecosystems. That calls for a comprehensive approach – and that is what the Netherlands is renowned for.’

40 years

This year, the Netherlands and Vietnam celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations. According to the minister, the ties between the two countries have become even stronger in the past two years. ‘Working together on the comprehensive Mekong Delta Plan has cemented our friendship. Water management formed the inspiration for a strategic partnership.’