Analysis: Years in the making, Vietnam’s Mekong Delta policy takes the long view

Vietnam’s Mekong Delta is approximately the same size as the Netherlands — about 41,000 square kilometers (16,000 square miles) — and is home to 17 million people, very nearly the same population as the Netherlands. Perhaps that made dialogue easier.

Unlike many foreign experts, the Dutch participants in the Mekong Delta Plan (MDP) dialogue were patient and brought plenty of relevant experience to the table. They were able negotiators, too; though officials from Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MONRE) are natural rivals, the Dutch were adept at keeping both sets of Vietnamese participants engaged in productive conversation.

The group reached agreement that the environmental health of Vietnam’s vast and hugely fertile Mekong Delta could not be sustained by deployment of an “ever-more complicated array of hydraulic works.” At the end of 2013, after four years of discussion, the experts signed off on a 126-page plan that was strongly biased toward adaptive rather than mechanical fixes.

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David Brown