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1.3.02 German-Vietnamese collaboration – researching a sustainable way to deal with water

Vietnam is a country rich in water resources. With an average annual precipitation of just under 2,000 millimetres and a dense water network of 2,360 rivers spanning over ten kilometres, the water supply is generous. Yet despite these favourable conditions, water management is a challenge in Vietnam: a lack of infrastructure and knowledge and increasing water consumption through agriculture and industry are just some of the problems. German and Vietnamese researchers are working together on a BMBF research project to establish the prerequisites for a sustainable way of managing the water supplies.

The distribution of precipitation and waterways in Vietnam varies greatly from region to region. Extended dry seasons lead to temporary supply problems in certain areas of the country. Much of Vietnam is also “downstream territory”, i.e. the rivers have already travelled some distance before flowing into the country. So, for example, the quantity and quality of the water resources in the Mekong and the Red River depend heavily on the usage along the upper courses in neighbouring countries. Furthermore, the necessary infrastructure for water supplies, wastewater treatment, flood protection etc. is not in place nationwide. In addition to all this, the economic development of the country with advancing urbanisation, industrialisation and intensive farming is leading to an increase in water consumption and thus to growing amounts of wastewater. The authorities are not currently in a position to implement effective water management in the face of these challenges.

The Red River Delta in the Nam Dinh province of Vietnam

The Red River Delta in the Nam Dinh province of Vietnam
The Red River Delta in the Nam Dinh province of Vietnam

Careful management of water resources is essential if the water-related problems in Vietnam are to be solved. Technical, judicial and social tools must be developed and conceptual measures for the respective river basins implemented. These activities are intended to harmonise the somewhat contradictory requirements of the water supply and provide sustainability. Several BMBF-funded projects under the collective title “IWRM Vietnam” are supporting this process in three representative Vietnamese regions with different natural, socio-economic and ecological characteristics:

  • Red River Delta, Nam Dinh province: The key challenges for integrated water research management (IWRM) are intensive farming and the wastewater from the textile industry, metalworking and aquaculture. The freshwater is also being depleted through excessive groundwater extraction and increasing (saltwater intrusion).
  • Dong-Nai basin, Lam Dong province, Hoa Bac district: Intensive tea and coffee cultivation is resulting in large quantities of fertilisers and pesticides entering the waterways that supply over 9,000 people with their day-to-day water.
  • Mekong Delta, Can Tho province: The main problems here are the deficient water supply, flood events and deposits from intensive livestock farming.

The “IWRM Vietnam” research project is being led by the chair of environmental engineering and ecology in civil engineering at the University of Bochum with the co-operation of the Universities of Bonn and Greifswald and a network of German and Vietnamese partners in universities, research institutes, authorities and companies. The scientists are developing methods for implementing integrated water resource management for river basins in Vietnam. To date, they have produced the following results at two planning levels:

Location of the three project regions

Location of the three project regions
Location of the three project regions

River basin level: planning and decisionmaking support tools

Tools have been developed that will help to establish sustainable water management and to reduce or even completely eliminate the risks posed to water quality. One of the results is a planning atlas for integrated water resource management.

IThe scientists examined the water resources in the aforementioned example regions as well as the current economic, social and ecological situation of the basin in question. The aim was to cover both current and future usage conflicts and water management issues. The results of the investigations are to help decision-makers in future in implementing measures for sustainable water management and for protecting the water resources against contamination. The tools were developed in close collaboration with the Vietnamese authorities and tested in the three example regions.

Local level: environmental technology

The experts have also developed technical and conceptual solutions for specific water-management problems at local level for the three project regions. This involved adapting German environmental technologies to local conditions and putting them to use.

The scientists developed a tool for the Can Tho province that is designed to reduce the amount of nutrients in the waters of the Mekong Delta. A web-based geo-information system (GIS) was set up for this purpose in order to monitor the water quality. The researchers also developed solutions for treating agricultural wastewater.

The researchers designed a central water supply system for the Lam Dong province. This involved creating a balance between conflicting interests within an agrarian community. The adverse effect of agriculture on the water quality played a significant role here. The experiences gained are being fed into the development of a provincescale IWRM system.

The scientists developed concepts for treating domestic and industrial wastewater in the Nam Dinh province. They are examples of a possible solution for the water management problems faced there.

One key component of the project is what is known as capacity development. This involves training for the Vietnamese partners in environmental administration and research, master’s theses, joint research activities, workshops and conferences.

Continuing need for co-operation

The Vietnamese government has recognised the importance of integrated water resource management and is working on improving the framework conditions. The institutions that need to implement IWRM on site are being strengthened – beginning with the river basins with the biggest water management problems. The diverse range of challenges means the Vietnamese government requires continuing support, e.g. in the development of planning tools, monitoring strategies and wastewater treatment procedures, and in the intensifying of environmental administration and personnel training. There is still great demand for scientific and technical collaboration between Vietnam and Germany where IWRM is concerned.

University of Bochum
Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering
U+Ö: Environmental engineering and ecology in civil engineering

Prof. Dr. Harro Stolpe
Universitätsstraße 150
44801 Bochum, Germany
Tel.: +49(0)2 34/3 22-79 95
E-mail: harro.stolpe@rub.de
Funding reference: 02WM0815
  • Sub-projects, Ruhr University of Bochum, U+Ö (funding ref 02WM0815, funding ref WM0816)
  • Sub-project, University of Bonn, INRES (funding ref 02WM0760)
  • Sub-project, University of Greifswald, IGG (funding ref 02WM0765)
  • Sub-project, iaks GmbH (funding ref 02WM0766)
  • Sub-project, Fraunhofer Institute (funding ref 02WM0767)
  • Sub-projects, Moskito GIS GmbH (funding ref 02WM0762, 02WM0769)
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