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Shaping new institutions on water governance for Vietnam

Situation of and challenges to the completion of the system of institutions on water governance in Vietnam in the process of international integration

The agenda of the Second Standing Committee on Sustainable Development, Finance and Trade of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has identified an important theme attached to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for discussion at the 132nd IPU Assembly to be held in Hanoi in late March, 2015, namely “Shaping a new system on water governance: Promoting parliamentary action on water.” In order to contribute to recommendations of the Vietnamese National Assembly delegation on the IPU-132’s resolution on that theme, this article presents the situation of building a new institution on water governance in Vietnam over the recent time and its challenges; a model institution of water governance taking into account Vietnam’s particular conditions; and necessary steps to be taken by the National Assembly to shape and operate a more effective water governance mechanism in Vietnam.

Situation of and challenges to the completion of the system of institutions on water governance in Vietnam in the process of international integration

As a Southeast Asian nation with an age-old agricultural tradition, water and water control in Vietnam is always an issue of prime importance in its economic and water-induced disaster prevention and control policies through different historical periods. Today, water governance is related to the management functions and duties of different economic sectors and fields: agricultural irrigation, aquaculture, industrial manufacture and processing, urban and rural water supply and drainage, waterway navigation, power generation, tourism, etc. As a country with abundant water sources thanks to its typical geographical and climatic conditions (on average, every Vietnamese has around 9.85 m3 of surface water, 1.5 times higher the average per capita water volume in the world according to a 2008 report) and suffering a protracted wartime, Vietnam’s water governance is still based on traditional methods and mainly serves agriculture and rural areas where live 70-80 percent of its population. In the past two decades, the water governance institution in Vietnam has progressed toward higher effectiveness and sustainability of the exploitation, use and protection of water as a precious natural resource, especially in the context that this natural resource is facing great challenges of multi-purpose use, much greater demand for clean water due to population growth, speedy urbanization and quickly increasing environmental pollution and degradation. These challenges are largely attributable to wastewater and depletion of aquatic ecosystems in the river basins and coastal areas. Another water-related extremely significant challenge related to the strategic national security issue is that most of natural sources of water in Vietnam’s large rivers come from neighboring countries which themselves have growing demands for water for their development objectives...

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