The First progress report workshop of Sand Budget and River Geomorphology Stability Plan (RGS Plan) for Viet Nam Mekong Delta (VMD) was held with the participation of seventy representatives from Ministry agencies, Donor, Civil Social Organisations (CSOs), academic institution/universities, private companies, media sources, and experts. These are the two most important packages of the IKI-funded project namely “Drifting Sands: Mitigating the impacts of climate change in the Mekong Delta through public and private sector engagement in the sand industry” (Shortly called as Sustainable Sand Management Project). The project is managed by WWF Germany, Co-implemented by WWF- Viet Nam and Greater Mekong in collaboration with the Viet Nam Disaster Management Authority (VNDMA)- Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and 13 Mekong Delta provinces/City and other important stakeholders.
In the opening speech, Mr. Nguyen Van Tien, Deputy Head of VNDMA, updated the delegates about the extreme erosion happening in VMD and emphasised the importance of synchronised solutions or else, the increasing impacts of upstream hydropower dams and sand mining would exacerbate erosion and sand scarcity.
Mr. Bui Van Phuong from the General Department of Planning Management, Ministry of Planning and Investment (GDoPM, MPI) introduced the highlights of the Mekong Delta Integrated Regional Plan for the period 2021-2030, with a vision to 2050. In the shortcoming period, implementing the Delta Integrated Plan, especially the development of the express highway network, will create a huge sand demand for both construction and levelling purposes. He expected that the Sand Budget would provide the scientific basis for the provincial authorities to prepare the sand extraction plans and enhance sustainable sand management in the VMD.
At the conference, Mr. Nguyen Ho Khanh, from the General Department of Geology and Minerals (GDoGM) presented at the workshop the National Mineral Strategy to 2030 and updated about the Revised Mineral Law. The Sand Budget and RGSPlan, once again, were mentioned with a high potential of being integrated into these national planning and policies. Completed results of the project can provide the suggestions/ recommendations to the reform of the Mineral Law 2010.
Experts from Deltares Joint Ventures (JVs) and Southern Institute of Water Resources Research (SIWRR) JVs, those who are involved in developing the Delta-wide Sand Budget and RGSPlan respectively, reported the initial results of the dry season monitoring campaigns were conducted from Mar to June 2022. Of which, the multi-beam echo sounder survey (MBES) at four hydrological locations for dune tracking to calculate bed-load transport across the Delta has indicated the limited volume of sand transported to the delta as anticipated. Additionally, a nearby 550 km length of riverbed was profiled by sub-bottom profiler combined with sand sampling to serve for sand stock estimation of the entry delta successfully measured. The observed sand content within the collected samples was mostly categorised as fine to medium sand in the upper delta and clay, silt, or very fine sand found in the rest. Approximately 372 km of bathymetry data along Tien and Hau river (equivalent to 766 cross sections with average distance between 2 cross sections is 500m) were measured.
This has filled the current bathymetry data gap and provided the important inputs for development of the RGS Plan. Aside from the progress reports showing on-schedule results, the consultant agencies also consulted with key partners at the workshop about the rainy season monitoring campaign as well as planned work to improve delta-wide sand transport, geographic and risk modelling. The comprehensive sediment monitoring campaigns (Sand budget) and deep surveys (RGS Plan) will be conducted for the wet season in turns by the end of September and beginning of Oct 2022.
The delegates from Ministries such as Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Construction, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development, Departments of Planning and Investment, Departments of Natural Resources and Environment, Departments of Constructions from 13 VMD provinces and city, CSOs, academia, and regional partner (MRC) have ardently feebacked on the results as well as recommended improvement for the implementation of project activities, including open discussions about sediment monitoring locations for the wet season campaign.
Sand scarcity has become a visible future to VMD, especially with highways to be built in the next 4 years. Without a strategic management plan for this fundamental resource, the Mekong Delta Integrated Regional Plan can face a serious delay during implementation. How to settle this issue is still an open challenge to the region. Responding to the Ho Chi Minh City Television (HTV) and Thanh Nien News, Marc Goichot, Freshwater Lead of WWF Pacific Asia, emphasised the undividable role of sand and sediment in river ecosystems and the consequences of the current inadequate valuation of river sand. “Only when all the environmental and social costs are taken into account, can we then make conscientious decisions about how and whether we should trade off sand values for infrastructure development”.