KEY ISSUES FOR MEKONG BASIN DEVELOPMENT PLAN (BDP)
Bio Sketch of the Author:
Ho Van Cao obtained his doctoral degree in Economics from Georgetown University, U.S.A (1973). He was a former Assistant Minister of Finance and Government Commissioner of Industrial Development Bank of Vietnam. He was a member of the National Petroleum Board and Presidential Cultural and Social Commission. Notably, he was an Administrative Chief of a district peripheral to Dong Thap Muoi (Plain of Reeds), worked and lived with Delta people whose heels tarred with “phen” (sulphate soils). One of his pen names is NGUON PHIEN (Pure Sulphate Nodule). In spite of his pen name, he is an advocate for any solution to eradicate ASS (Acid Sulphate Soils) including the Anaerobic Treatment Process if it becomes a proven method.
The Mekong River Basin Development Plan (BDP):
Perspectives of the Mekong Delta in the Basin-Wide Context Ho Van Cao, Ph.D.4/1998
The 1995 Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin requires all 4 riparian Governments to come up with a BDP serving as a blue print for sustained development of the Mekong basin. Phase One covers the Terms of references (TOR) for the BDP. Phase Two focuses on the formulation of the BDP. This paper identifies major elements should be addressed in the Mekong BDP with reference to the Mekong Delta Perspective.
The Mekong BDP must take into account unique characteristics of the Delta in its grand scheme for
development. There exist three sets of unique problems facing the Delta, on an unequal scale, not
found in other places basin-wide:
Mekong Delta's hard realities and vivid experiences necessitate a sensitive stakeholder approach to
BDP formulation and design
Mekong Delta residents have learned to live with the seasonal annual floods calmly faced devastating great floods in the past, which caused losses to harvest, crops, human lives, properties, and livestock. However, they cannot bear the misery of deeper and deeper penetration of saline water into the inner Delta areas during the dry season.
They have high hope to see the Dong Thap and Long Xuyen Quadrangle cease to exist as uncultivable acid sulfate soils. New canals were built, drainage and sulfate washing have been applied but they obtained no success in large scale. Effective ways to deal with acid sulfate soils become more pressing under the pressure of rapid growth of the Delta population which surpasses 15 million, more than the size of the combined population of the two neighboring riparian countries--Cambodia (8.9 million) and Laos (4.6 million) --.
They continue to suffer inadequate drinkable fresh water supply, which is, in many areas, contaminated by waste and toxic/mineral elements dissolute in the river flow, a chronic problem aggravated by the low-level of the Delta inner are comparative to the sea-level river estuaries. The semi-diurnal tides of the South China Sea affect the way of life of Delta residents for better or for worse. In addition, the reduced spread of the fertile silt to the Delta has forced Delta farmers to rely more on inorganic fertilizers to maintain the crop production. The intensive use of fertilizers has dumped more chemicals into the river; notably the nitrate penetration into ground water has produced harmful effects to human beings, and children's growth.
All in all, the Mekong Basin Development Plan, stipulated by the 1995 Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin, serves as a framework for development and cooperation acceptable to four riparian countries. The BDP provides a blueprint for water resource development fostering the economic and social well being of all people living in the basin. The wide range of needs and environmental factors Basin-wide and Delta-wide necessitates a sensitive stakeholder approach to BDP formulation and design. The Mekong BDP will not encourage any development that puts economic growth before equity and sustainability, at the obvious expense of other regions in the basin including the Delta.
Mekong Basin Development Plan (BDP): Delta-wide Context
Recognizing that the Mekong BDP is not the only initiative exists in the basin, the BDP must be drawn
in coordination with the ADB-sponsored Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) initiative, initiated in 1992.
However, as a whole, the GMS initiative does not exhaust the water resources
development/management of the Mekong basin including the Delta. Riparian countries cannot be
content solely with these feasible projects as they are sponsored by ADB or potentially financed by
ADB. On Delta perspectives and context, the strategic focuses and development roadmap can be
structured within the BDP framework and suggested on several prongs to embark effective salinity and
acidity management in the Mekong Delta. As the availability of freshwater is central to salinity and
acidity management, watershed management is an issue at basin-wide level, therefore BDP should
address all factors and options related to upstream/ downstream water sharing. Last but not least,
poverty reduction and restructuring the Delta's economic base must be treated as integrated elements
of the BDP.
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