Preliminary Outcomes Of Three-year Implementation Of Resolution On Climate-resilient development Of Mekong Delta
14:54 | 13/03/2021
VGP - The following is full report evaluating three-year implementation of the Resolution on climate-resilient and sustainable development of the Mekong Delta.

REPORT

Evaluating three-year implementation of the Government's Resolution No.120/NQ-CP on climate resilient and sustainable development of the Mekong River Delta

Climate resilient and sustainable development of the Mekong River Delta (MRD) has been the focus of the Party and the State, with many development policies being issued to promote region’s potentials and strengths to create a driving force for socio-economic development.

In 2017, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on behalf of the Government issued the Resolution No.120/NQ-CP on climate resilient and sustainable development of the MDR. This Resolution has demonstrated a strategic vision with the policy of “thuan thien” (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:

I. SOME HIGHLIGHTED ACHIEVEMENTS

1. Enabling institutions and policies to promote sustainable development in the MDR in a unified manner, with inter-regional connection to create synergy

Many mechanisms and policies have been studied and proposed for investment for sustainable development of the MDR: Renewable energy and energy efficiency, environmental infrastructure and engineering, agriculture and aquaculture, food processing and related transportation services… thereby attracting enterprises to invest heavily in agriculture, strengthening the linkage of 4 actors (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[1]. 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.

- Approving and implementing the task of developing MRD planning for the period 2021-2030, with a vision to 2050 in the direction of multi-sectoral integration, based on strengths of natural areas, in line with the Resolution's nature-based outlook; reviewing and adjusting sectoral planning for the MRD’s climate resilient and sustainable development.

- The Prime Minister has approved the task of formulating provincial planning for the period 2021 - 2030, with a vision to 2045 of 13 provinces and cities of the region, which are currently being developed; Construction planning to 2030 and vision to 2050 in MRD[2]; Scheme of Sustainable Smart Urban Development in Vietnam for the period of 2018-2025 and orientations to 2030[3], including research and development of a pilot program for smart city development in the Mekong Delta; Adjusting the water supply planning in the MRD to 2030, with a vision to 2050; Developing construction materials for the construction of sea and island works by 2025 to promote the development, production and use of construction materials for coastal and island constructions; Modernizing irrigation in MRD; Preventing river and coastal erosion to 2030.

- Approving and implementing the Master Program on sustainable and climate-smart agricultural development in the Mekong Delta until 2030, with a vision to 2045; Program to build residential clusters, lines and houses in flooded areas in the MRD in the period 2018-2020 being implemented in the provinces of Dong Thap, An Giang, Vinh Long, Tien Giang, Hau Giang and Can Tho city for 44,811 households. Constructing 863 residential clusters, lines and 119 embankments surrounding and ensuring the safety of 191,000 households, with nearly 1 million people in flooded areas in the Mekong Delta being able live safely, stably and step by step to develop sustainably. The average rate of urban residents having access to clean water in the region reaches about 89.6% (an increase of 1.5% compared to 2017), the average rate of water loss is 22.5% (4% higher than the national average).

Local agencies have been promoting administrative reforms, improving the investment environment, creating favorable conditions for enterprises and people to promote economic restructuring towards climate change adaptation in line with natural conditions and advantages of the region[4].

2. Moving from passive to proactive adaptation by enhancing climate monitoring capacity, early weather forecasting, and timely warning of natural disasters; transforming production and businesses towards utilising natural strengths

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. The whole region has 408 monitoring works on underground water resources, thereby improving hydro-meteorological forecasts, early warning of natural disasters both in terms of quality and timing, vitally contributing to adaptation solutions such as water storage, change of cultivation seasons, restructuring of crops and animals, strengthening and protecting houses and production establishments ... Due to the early forecasts and warnings, ministries and local agencies have implemented effective solutions, minimizing the negative impacts on daily life and production in the Mekong Delta. Particularly in the saline drought of 2019-2020, although the level is more severe and extensive than the historic saline drought in 2015-2016, but due to the proactiveness in forecasting and timely action in the production restructuring transformation, the affected rice production area has been reduced by 90% compared to 2015-2016.

- 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. Underground water sources have been investigated and searched in 32 regions across 7 provinces of the MRD, including: Bac Lieu, Ca Mau, Dong Thap, Kien Giang, Long An, Soc Trang, Tra Vinh with the total of 35 public works with the capacity of 33,000 m3/day to provide water to more than 333,000 people. Up to now, groundwater maps and numerous drilled wells have been handed over to all local agencies in the MRD to develop concentrated water supply facilities. In addition, local agencies, that announced the emergency situation of saline droughts, have been directly supported with hundreds of millions of VND through Vietnam Environment Protection Fund. In particular, during the saline droughts in 2020, many emergency water supply points have been built, and the MONRE alone has supported to build 10 points with the total supply capacity of 3,700 m3/day, for 62,000 people in 7 provinces to combat drought and salinity in the MRD.

Economic transformation continues to be promoted in accordance with strengths of the region and each sub-region; gradually resolving conflicts between economic models; strengthening economic and infrastructure connection within the region and with Ho Chi Minh City and the Southeast region; forming a network of domestic production and consumption and creating a hub of agricultural, fishery and fishery export for Ho Chi Minh City and the Southeast region. According to preliminary statistics, 1,165 projects of about VND 280,000 billion have been signed between enterprises in Ho Chi Minh City with provinces in the MRD to realize economic linkage and transport connection to implement Resolution No.120/NQ-CP.

- 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. The total rice cultivation area in the MRD is 4.19 million ha, accounting for 54.3% of the country's total area; with the brand for Vietnamese rice being famous in the world market (ST25 rice has consistently been ranked the first or second for the best rice in the world). At the same time, in 2020, farmers and enterprises in the Mekong Delta are very excited to make an important contribution to the success of the country's rice export with the export volume of 6.2 million tons, reaching 3.12 billion USD (11.2% higher compared to last year). In 2019, the pangasius farming area has reached 6,000 hectares, with the output of 1.4 million tons, and the seedling demand is about 3-4 billion seedlings. The whole region has 230 pangasius hatcheries, about 4,000 nurseries with an area of about 3,500 ha, concentrated mainly in Dong Thap, An Giang, Tien Giang, Can Tho provinces, with the number of seedlings produced of nearly 4 billion. The brackish water shrimp farming area is about 669,000 ha, accounting for 92.9% of the country’s area; in 2019, about 16 billion seedlings were produced, meeting 45% of the demand. There are about 335.4 thousand hectares of fruit trees, accounting for 36.3% of the country's area, including major fruits such as dragon fruit, mango, orange, pomelo, rambutan, longan, durian, pineapple, etc. Many varieties of fruit trees, adapted to the MRD’s conditions, have been produced, increasing the export value and turnover.

Overcoming difficulties caused by the pandemic, by 2020, many provinces and cities in the MRD achieved positive results in export; among which rice, agricultural and aquatic products have reached export turnover of USD billions. In An Giang province alone, the total export turnover in 2020 reached USD 928,150 million, an increase of 4.29% compared to 2019; for rice alone, the earning was USD 270 million, an increase of 18.6% compared to 2019. These achievements are attributed to the exploitation of regional advantages, along with the strengthen of cooperation between enterprises in the MRD and foreign representative agencies in Vietnam as well as taking advantage of opportunities provided by the new generation of free trade agreements (CPTPP, EVFTA, RCEP).

The industry has been gradually transformed to link with the region’s potentials and advantages, especially to support the agricultural economy, focusing on green industry development with low emissions, and higher value of agricultural products through promoting the processing industry. Particularly in 2020, the Ministry of Industry and Trade supported national industrial promotion funding for 21 projects with a budget of VND 14,058 million to apply advanced machinery and equipment in industrial production, handicraft, improving productivity and quality, enhancing efficient use of raw materials and fuel, minimizing environmental pollution; to support participation in investment fairs and exhibitions to introduce and promote products.

- Focusing on exploiting potentials of clean energy and renewable energy: Bac Lieu 1 and 2 wind power plants have been completed, with other wind and solar power plants in Bac Lieu, Ca Mau, Long An province, etc. being built. The 12MW bagasse power plant in Soc Trang province has been put into operation and the 25MW rice husk power plant and the 10MW rice straw power plant in Soc Trang are being built. The rural electricity network in the MRD are being developed and the Vietnam Electricity (EVN) has invested in 3,944 km of medium voltage lines, 4,488 transformer stations, 892 km of low voltage lines in MRD providing electricity for 21,976 households and 2,727 pump stations covering 968,900 ha (so far electricity has been provided to 2,583 households).

Trade promotion activities across the country were reformed to cope with changes in domestic and international markets amidst trade competition from major countries, and the Covid19 epidemic, thereby contributing to promoting brands and industries of the MRD in export markets.

- 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; improving seedling quality; the “Climate Smart Livelihoods” model, “Clean water and environment” model of Soc Trang province; model of energy efficiency office buildings by investing in solar power system in Vinh Long province, etc.

- Ecological strengths, cultural and history heritages are conserved and developed, thereby promoting tourism and service economy in the MRD. Many biosphere reserves, ecotourism, river culture areas, craft villages in the region have become tourist attractions such as Tram Chim National Park, Cai Rang Floating Market, Thoi Son Islet, Chau Giang Khmer Village (An Giang), Rice Paper Roll Village (Son Doc, Ben Tre), Sa Dec Ornamental Flower Village (Dong Thap), etc. According to statistics, in 2019 alone, the number of tourists coming to the MDR reached 47 million, with overnight visitors of 13.5 million, resulting in tens of trillions of VND in revenue.

3. Forming the development space, and infrastructure planning connecting within the region and with Ho Chi Minh City, the Southeast region

- The development of inter-regional connectivity in terms of infrastructure and economy has been instructed by the Prime Minister on the basis of promoting advantages and spillover effects of development in Ho Chi Minh City and the Southern key economic region with the MDR, including developing inter-regional traffic routes, forming large-scale industrial parks and cities to ensure the overall connectivity.

- In the period 2016-2020, the National Assembly, the Government, the Prime Minister directed investment in 31 traffic projects and works with a total investment of about VND 88,963 billion (VND 29,426 billion has been assigned), among which 14 projects were completed with a total investment of 41,474 billion VND, 14 ongoing projects with a total investment of 40,494 trillion VND, 03 projects are preparing to launch with total investment of about VND 6,995 billion. Up to now, National Highway 1 has been invested in accordance with the plan with the 04 lanes, the Lo Te - Rach Soi connecting Can Tho with Kien Giang was completed along with 40km from the Ho Chi Minh City to Trung Luong, and the operation of Trung Luong - My Thuan secton...; Many key projects have been approved and implemented such as: Rach Mieu 2 Bridge, My Thuan 2 Bridge, My Thuan - Can Tho Expressway, improvement of National Highway 1 from Nga Bay, Hau Giang province to Chau Thanh, Soc Trang, the route bypassing National Highway 1A through Ca Mau city ...

- River transport is identified as the strength of the Mekong Delta with 6 main waterway transport routes connecting Ho Chi Minh City (Southeast) with the Mekong Delta being invested and upgraded to grade III standards for 800 - 1,000 ton heavy ships, taking advantage of tides, ensuring the connection between the Mekong Delta provinces and the Ho Chi Minh City to increase the market share of the transport, taking advantage of rivers and waterway of the region.

- The Mekong Delta currently has 12 seaports, 40 ports, 7.6km of wharves, with the designed capacity of the ports in the region of about 31 million tons/year, acting as satellite ports performing the role of consolidation for ports in HCMC and Cai Mep - Thi Vai and for short distance inter-regional transport. Up to now, the total volume of goods in 2020 was 22.9 million tons. The harbors receive ships of 20,000 tons, and container ships with a capacity of 500-1,000 TEU.

- Mekong River Delta has 04 airports, including 2 international airports (Phu Quoc, Can Tho) and 2 domestic airports (Rach Gia, Ca Mau) with total designed capacity of 7.6 million passengers/year. 2019 saw nearly 5.1 million passengers while Phu Quoc international airport alone served 3.7 million passengers, reaching 90% of the design capacity.

- Railways: according to the direction approved by the Prime Minister, the Ho Chi Minh City - My Tho - Can Tho - Ca Mau railway of about 320 km long, with 1,435mm gauge connecting Ho Chi Minh City with several Southwestern province is expected to receive investment after 2020.

- The Government has paid attention to increasing investment in many irrigation, fishery infrastructure projects, fishing ports, anchor areas in the MRD, such as: (i) Water Management Project in Ben Tre Province; (ii) North Ben Tre Irrigation System Project - Phase 1; (iii) Cai Lon - Cai Be Irrigation System Project - Phase 1; (iv) Ca Mau Irrigation System for Sub-region II, III and V Project; (v) Ninh Quoi Boat Lock Sewer Project; (vi) Tha La, Tra Su Sewer Gate Project. Up to now, these projects and facilities have initially met the requirements of climate-smart agriculture development by developing a system of dykes to prevent salinity, control high tide and storm surges and gradually increase resistance to storm surge and flood water, effectively preventing and controlling salinity.

- Local agencies in the region have also enhanced the implementation of infrastructure investment projects such as upgrading sea dikes combined with building a salinity prevention system from My Thanh 2 bridge to Bac Lieu, Soc Trang province (VND 264 billion); developing a system of sewer gates to prevent saline intrusion and irrigation canals to store fresh water in critical areas in Soc Trang province (VND 153 billion). Vinh Long has invested more than VND 2,000 billion to build more than 1,300 irrigation facilities, etc.

- Total capacity of urban water plants are about 1.32 million m3/day and night. The average rate of urban residents having access to clean water in the region is about 89.6% (an increase of 1.5% compared to 2017). In the Mekong Delta, three provinces/cities have established and approved provincial water supply planning as the basis for managing and implementing investment projects (Ben Tre, Kien Giang and Can Tho).

- The Government continues to allow investment in constructing additional residential clusters, embankments in existing flood residential areas to ensure that people in flood areas can live safely and stably[5].

- The exploitation of sand from river bed for ground levelling is gradually limited through the promulgation of 20 technical standards and guidances on the use of ash, slag and gypsum as raw materials for construction material production and use in construction works.

- Rural environmental protection 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 MRD safe water supply project 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. This is 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.

4. Promoting public investment as seed capital to encourage the investment from private sector and the international community for sustainable development of the MRD

- The Government and the Prime Minister have always paid attention to and promoted public investment as catalyst for resolving urgent livelihood issues. The total amount of state budget assigned annually by the Prime Minister in the 2016-2020 period to local agencies is VND 220 trillion, accounting for 16% of the whole country.  State budget capital is allocated through a number of ministries in the period 2016-2020 for the Mekong Delta in some specific fields: agriculture (billion VND 28,200); transport (VND 32,961 billion); health care (VND 947.5 billion). Additional medium-term funding for the period 2016-2020 amounted to VND 2,500 billion to address urgent and dangerous landslides.

- The medium-term plans for public investment for the period 2021-2025 of the ministries and local agencies for the Mekong Delta are as follows: i) The total state budget capital invested through the local agencies is VND 266,049 billion; ii) The total demand for state budget through a number of ministries to implement projects in the region such as: VND 32,859 billion for Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; VND 1,927 billion for Ministry of Health; about VND 198,823 billion for Ministry of Transport (proposing the Government to support at least about VND 57,346 billion).

- For other preferential resources: The MPI has cooperated with the World Bank to study and propose a budget support for sustainable development in the MDR of USD1.05 billion (equivalent to VND 24,600 billion) in the period of 2021-2025 to mobilize resources for the MDR to focus on improving and reforming policies and mechanisms for regional linkage projects to invest in infrastructure, prevention of droughts, saline intrusion and climate change adaptation under instructions of the Prime Minister in Directive No.23/CT-TTg dated September 5, 2019.

- 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, etc.; 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 etc.

5. Strengthening scientific research, technology development, international cooperation, awareness-raising communication, training, and career transition for resource mobilization and economic restructuring

- 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, etc. Many science and technology research activities have been actively implemented by local agencies, such as the research and production of bio-products, genetic modification, and proposing models for crop conversion on rice growing land (Tien Giang province); conducting research and transfering urban, high-tech agriculture production models (Can Tho city), etc.

- The total number of workers in the region accounts for 20% of the total country and is considered as one of the MDR’s advantages. Over the past few years, training and improvement of the quality of human resources have been receving attention. The vocational training network has been re-organized for job change, job creation for agricultural and rural workers in the MRD towards specialization, professionalization, gradually moving agricultural workers to the service sector.

- 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; organizing training and capacity building programs, seminars to provide market information and improve the capacity of enterprises; organizing investment promotion workshops to improve the value chain of the agro-food processing industry, etc.).

- International cooperation is promoted to attract resources, knowledge and technology for the MRD. Vietnam 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, Vietnam as Chair of ASEAN proactively connect the MRD in ASEAN to find a common voice on the importance of sub-regional development.

 Promoting countries in the basin to cooperate in the sustainable and equitable exploitation and use of resources, including water, on the basis of harmonization of sustainable development interests. Expanding and strengthening strategic partnerships to respond to climate change (including important cooperation mechanisms and partners such as Vietnam-Netherlands Intergovernmental Committee on climate change adaptation and water management, EU, USA, France, Germany, Japan, the World Bank, etc.). Proposing to establish and develop new cooperation frameworks with countries, organizations and international partners; taking full advantage of external resources, including investment capital, science and technology, to support the MRD in its sustainable development, thereby to mobilize experiences in shifting livelihood models, sustainable agricultural production, adjusting irrigation planning, developing urban infrastructure in the MRD, developing transportation infrastructure to adapt to climate change. So far, there have been 20 development partners supporting the MRD[6].

6. 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; people's livelihood has been gradually improved; the MRD’s development picture is increasingly painted with many bright colors:

- The development space forming through transport infrastructure connection, regional connectivity has been progressing, changing the MRD’s outlook. A number of mechanisms and policies have been reviewed and supplemented. The Master Plan for MDR’s sustainable development is being urgently completed. The effectiveness of zoning and production transformation has been proven through the record salinity drought in 2019-2020, thereby transforming challenges into opportunities for development and minimizing damages for production and business. For example, the rice production area loss in the recent saline drought was about 10% compared with that of the saline drought in 2015-2016.

- GDP growth has been maintained at high level, with 2018 and 2019 recording impressive rate of about 7,3%. The economic restructuring has achieved positive results, especially in agriculture, affirming the nature-based orientation is correct. People have actively adapted to the impacts of climate change, live with and consider floods and saltwater, brackish water as a resource for economic development with reasonable zoning on the basis of water resource allocation of the whole region.

- The cultural and spiritual life has been gradually improved, 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).

The above-mentioned achievements are attributed to the close attention and instruction of the Party, the National Assembly, the Government, the Prime Minister, the active participation of ministries, sectors and local agencies; the consensus and positive response of people and enterprises in the region in particular and the whole country in general, the attention and effective participation of the international community. In particular, the Government and the Prime Minister often closely instruct and facilliate the implementation of the Resolution with effective solutions.

That reality once again affirms the strategic vision of the Party and the State on the MRD’s sustainable development, in accordance with domestic and international development context and trends, especially facing the great challenges of climate change. The implementation of the Resolution has been built on the results of science and technology programs and projects that have been implemented in recent years. At the same time, it strongly affirmes the political determination of the Government of Vietnam in the MDR’s sustainable development, contributing to global effort against climate change on the basis of combining innovation, indigenous knowledge, scientific and technology achievements in the world, the robust development and aspirations of people in the country and in the MDR to transform challenges into new development opportunities.

Limitations and causes

- Firstly, 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. However, these mechanisms and policies require time to be effective, and at the same time must be consistent with the general context of the country. The regional coordination institution has just been formed and will take time to assist the Government and the Prime Minister to coordinate the implementation of inter-disciplinary and inter-regional tasks, especially in proposing large-scale and influential projects to create impetus for socio-economic development such as infrastructure, transportation, etc.

- Secondly, Resolution No.120/NQ-CP was issued after the 5-year Medium-term Public Investment Program for the period 2016-2020 was approved by the National Assembly, so although resources for implementing the Resolution have been taken into consideration, it still cannot satisfy the actual needs. Most works and projects, that are being inter-regional, inter-sectoral, large-scale to fundamentally change the picture of the MDR’s climate resilient and sustainable development, 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, to focus resources on creating programs and projects to make large-scale transformation.

- Thirdly, the Law on Planning was enacted with new requirements and contents, leading to some difficulties in reviewing and formulating master plans, especially the MDR’s Master Plan that intergrates sectoral and local planning. The nature-based development mindset in line with 3 eco-economic regions is slowly deployed, investment in infrastructure development is still slow due to the absence of the MDR’s Master Plan. 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.

- Fourthly, 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, programs and projects to promote agricultural economy, marine economy, tourism, and processing industry as well as synchronous agricultural economy in terms of market, high technology, and enhancement of the quality, value and competitiveness of goods.

Challenges

- 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 expection under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as well as the Paris Agreement, and so the 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 shown 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 03 years and is only at the beginning stage, while the objectives, visions and tasks in the Resolution are strategic and long-term. Therefore, it takes time and resources to fully implement.

II. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ENHANCING SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MEKONG DELTA IN THE PERIOD 2021-2025, WITH A VISION TO 2030

The nature-based development orientation continues to be the pillar for sustainable development policies in the MRD.

1. Regarding institutional and policy mechanisms

Promoting the role of the Regional Coordination Council, especially in proposing inter-disciplinary hollistic solutions for regional connectivity, key programs and projects as the driving force to promote the MRD’s sustainable development.

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[7].

2. Prioritizing to allocate resources to implement investment projects in infrastructure, transportation, irrigation, prevention of riverbank and coastal erosion for the purpose of production, stabilization of people’s life in the MRD, especially multi-purpose, regional connectivity projects 

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, etc., specifically: 

- Transportation: Focusing resources on upgrading the road system in the region as well as connecting with Ho Chi Minh City and the Southeast for economic connection along the North-South and the West-East corridor. Developing and upgrading key national roads in the region: Trung Luong - My Thuan - Can Tho expressway, My Thuan 2 bridge, upgrading Quan Lo - Phung Hiep route, upgrading National Highway 53 from Tra Vinh - Long Toan, NH57 from Mo Cay to Vinh Long, NH30 from Cao Lanh - Hong Ngu, upgrading the road surface of Quan Lo - Phung Hiep, bypass of NH1 through Ca Mau city, expanding NH1 in Hau Giang, Soc Trang etc.

Focusing on the development of inland waterway transport system, logistics, improving transportation capacity of key waterway and road system in deeply inundated and coastal sub-regions, main connecting corridors and other specific projects under Decision No.68/QD-TTg dated January 15, 2018 of the Prime Minister approving the revised MDR’s Construction Planning to 2030, with a vision to 2050.

- Irrigation: Focusing on projects for salinity control, fresh water supply for agricultural production (suitable water transfer facilities between regions; irrigation systems that actively control salinity, for sustainable agriculture restructuring in 3 production regions); fresh water storage system, domestic water supply, household water storage for people in the saline intrusion areas; addressing riverbank erosion and strengthening sea dikes. In 2021, focusing on completing the following projects: Cai Lon - Cai Be Irrigation System Project, Phase 1, North and South Ben Tre Irrigation System Project, Phase 1, Irrigation System for Sub-Region II, III, V of Ca Mau province, Tha La project, Tra Su Sewer Gate.

- Construction and urban development: investing in building smart green urban infrastructure in the Mekong Delta to adapt to climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions; implementing water supply and drainage projects in the Mekong Delta: The Safety Water Supply project in the Mekong Delta, the Cai Be water supply project and the transmission pipeline system ...

- Power system: continuing to invest in and upgrade the rural power network in the MRD according to Decision No.1740/QD-TTg dated December 13, 2018 with 3,944 km of medium voltage transmission line, 4,488 transformer stations, 892 km of low voltage transmission line for the MDR, supplying electricity to 21,976 households, 2,727 pumping stations for irrigation of 968,900 ha.

3. 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, etc.).

4. Promoting large-scale transformation, speeding up rational restructuring

- Agriculture:

Developing agriculture in 3 sub-regions (upper delta, midlands and coastal areas), taking into consideration agricultural ecosystems in each sub-region:

+ Upper delta area: developing diverse agriculture, capable of adapting to extreme flood; this is the key area for ​​modern and sustainable production of rice and pangasius, having the role of regulating and absorbing flood for the MDR.

+ Midlands area: developing signature fruit production as it is the largest center for fruit production in the region and the country; developing concentrated rice production areas, freshwater aquaculture, vegetables, industrial crops and brackish water aquaculture.

+ Coastal area: developing agriculture based mainly on saline and brackish water, promoting fishery strengths; conducting saline-fresh water rotation in accordance with specific seasonal conditions; focusing on developing an ecological and organic agro-forestry system, combining with eco-tourism.

Shifting the strategic pillar to seafood - fruit - rice; increasing the production value of aquatic products and fruits, decreasing the production of rice. Promoting land concentration to form large-scale estates, organizing farming households into new-type cooperatives linked with enterprises. Developing technical support centers for specialized farming areas, processing industrial zones and clusters, logistics service centers, and cold chains for market connection. 

- Industry and commerce

Taking advantage of the strengths, pervasiveness and development of Ho Chi 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 Ho Chi Minh City and Cambodia to promote trade and services.

- Eco-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, etc. Attracting investment to develop supporting services. Strengthening vocational tourism service training, contributing to sustainable career transition for rural workers.

5. 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. Soon approving and implementing the Science and Technology Program for responding to climate change for the sustainable development of Mekong River Delta 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 Vietnam. 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.

6. 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

On the basis of the above-mentioned directions, I would like to propose ministries, sectors and local agencies to review, identify and propose a list of multi-purpose and inter-regional works and projects to be prioritized for budget allocation in the period 2021-2025./. 

 


[1] Decree No.57/2018/ND-CP on mechanisms and policies to encourage enterprises to invest in agriculture and rural areas; Decree No.98/2018/ND-CP on policies to encourage the development of cooperation and linkage in agricultural production and consumption; Decree No.148/2020/ND-CP amending and supplementing a number of decrees elaborating the implementation of the Land Law.

[2] Decision No. 68 / QD-TTg dated January 15, 2018 of the Prime Minister.

[3] Decision No. 950 / QD-TTg dated August 1, 2018 of the Prime Minister.

[4] In 2020 alone, the number of level 4 online public services in the whole region has doubled compared to 2019.

[5] 4 provinces An Giang, Dong Thap, Vinh Long, Hau Giang are completing investment procedures to build 49 additional residential clusters to relocate about 13,000 households, with the budget of VND 3,000 billion from the local budget; Tien Giang province has statrted the construction of 10 embankments in existing residential areas with a total length of 56.5 km and the estimated cost of VND 87.8 billion.

[6] According to statistics of the World Bank and development partners, the total investment support from development partners for the MDR programs and projects is about USD 2.5 billion.

[7] Resolution No.59-NQ/TW dated August 5, 2020 of the Politburo on construction and development of Can Tho city to 2030, with a vision to 2045; Resolution No.109/NQ-UBTVQH14 on establishing Phu Quoc city and wards under Phu Quoc city, Kien Giang province, etc.

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