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1.3.08 WISDOM research project – a water information system for the Mekong Delta

Climate change, rapid economic development and a quickly growing population have all put increased pressure on water supplies in the Mekong Delta. This makes living and farming in a region already blighted by natural events such as floods and droughts even more difficult. German and Vietnamese scientists are now developing an innovative information system in a project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), which is designed to help local authorities to adapt water management to the changes in environmental conditions and to use the resources available in a sustainable manner.

At a length of 4,500 kilometres and with a basin of 800,000 square kilometres, the Mekong is one of the world’s largest rivers. It starts at the Tibetan Plateau and winds its way down to the southern end of Vietnam where it flows into the South China Sea via nine larger channels and forms the 70,000 square kilometre plus Mekong Delta. Both living and farming in the region of this mighty river mouth are dominated by natural events: intermittent flooding and droughts, saltwater penetration from the tides, but also through advancing climate change, which turns the soil saline. The rapid population growth and progressive economic development have also put extra pressure on resources, and regulatory measures implemented in neighbouring countries upriver have had far-reaching effects within the region. The consequences are: changed flood patterns, increasing numbers of extreme events such as floods and droughts, a deterioration in the quality and availability of drinking water, acidified and saline soils and a loss of biodiversity.

These developments all bring great challenges to farming and water management, and yet the administrative and planning sectors in the regions in question only have isolated environment-related information at their disposal and this information is rarely exchanged. Duplication of and gaps in responsibilities make it even harder to implement a sustainable strategy.

German-Vietnamese collaboration

„Water related Information System for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong Delta“ (WISDOM) is a transdisciplinary research project aimed at establishing integrated water resource management for the Mekong on three scales (basin, delta, three selected subject regions in the delta) and is being co-ordinated by the German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) of the German Aerospace Center. German and Vietnamese institutions are together establishing a transferable information system (IS) for the Mekong Delta as part of the project. The aim is to support plans and decisions relating to sustainable land management and integrated water resource management (IWRM) and to make a contribution towards adapting to climate change. The project is being conducted in close collaboration with the relevant regional and national institutions.

BMBF delegation visits the WISDOM workshop in Vietnam — WISDOM project co-ordination presents project results

BMBF delegation visits the WISDOM workshop in Vietnam — WISDOM project co-ordination presents project results
BMBF delegation visits the WISDOM workshop in Vietnam — WISDOM project co-ordination presents project results

More information for improved planning

The focus in the design of the WISDOM information system is on the constant integration of existing and newly generated results and data. This will enable user-oriented analyses in order to develop sustainable solutions within resource management. The system collates data from various disciplines such as hydrology◄(water quantity, sediment load), socio-economics (socio-economic statistical data, analyses of legal framework conditions, institutional databases etc.), geography (land use, soil, vegetation, water resources and changes to these), modelling (salt infiltration, spread of pollution, flooding scenarios), information technology (data from in-situ measuring networks on salt content, water level, pH value, nutrients) and earth monitoring (land use, soil humidity, non-sealed areas etc.). The planning tool enables the user to conduct analyses in regard to specific issues.

User-friendly online tool

The WISDOM-IS features an innovative and complex data infrastructure based on various licence-free software components. It is – visually speaking – a bit like a “mini Google- Earth” for the Mekong Delta, and makes all project results available. Not only does it provide visualisation of all data and research results and their combined retrieval and intersection, users can also call up documents, legal texts, address databases, image material and presentations. This is an easy-to-use online tool so the decision makers do not need any experience with geo-information systems (GIS) or other Geo-IT-related knowledge in order to use the system. As the IS provides data on a regular basis it can also support certain monitoring tasks within sustainable land and water resource management. Still a prototype at present, the system is to be made ready for practical application and implemented in the region by the end of the project (2013).

Reuse and transferability

WISDOM training workshop

WISDOM training workshop
WISDOM training workshop

Fieldwork in the Mekong Delta

Fieldwork in the Mekong Delta
Fieldwork in the Mekong Delta

Involvement in the German-Vietnamese WISDOM initiative provides excellent opportunities to establish German technology and expertise in Vietnam. Assuming the project runs successfully, there are good scientific and economic opportunities for reuse, particularly within environmental monitoring and decision-making for water and land management and land administration. There is also great potential within capacity building and institutional- level training – both nationally (ministries, research programmes) and regionally.

The planning-based information system enables data of any type (remote sensing, GIS or sensor data, digital maps, field maps, reports, statistics etc.) to be fed in and retrieved in relation to specific problems. Furthermore, many of the methods developed during the project for the specific conditions in developing countries can be adapted and transferred. The initial results of the WISDOM project are already being transferred to the CAWA (Central Asian Water) project financed by the Federal Foreign Office. Both Central Asia and China have shown great interest in the WISDOM approach.

Project website www.wisdom.caf.dlr.de

German Aerospace Center, DLR
German Remote Sensing Data Center DFD of the DLR

Dr. Claudia Künzer
Münchner Straße 20
82234 Wessling, Germany
Tel.: +49(0) 81 53/28 32 80
E-mail: claudia.kuenzer@dlr.de
Föderkennzeichen: 0330777
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