Groundwater issues and knowledge in the Lower Mekong Basin information sharing workshop

12 October 2010 | News story

 The Water Sector Review (WSR, www.vnwatersectorreview.com) shows that Vietnam in not rich in water and struggles to maintain water supply during the dry season. The SERC (South East Rivers Cluster), Dong Nai, Red, Ma, Kone and the Huong River basins are particularly badly affected and groundwater dependency will most likely increase in future to support projected socio-economic growth.

Background

Despite growing demand, only a very small proportion of Vietnam’s groundwater resources have been assessed in any detail and there are already areas of concentrated extraction considered unsustainable. In Hanoi and HCMC, water levels have fallen as much as 30 meters from natural levels and over-exploitation occurs in the Central Highlands and in the Mekong Delta. Vietnam also faces major challenges associated with contamination of shallow groundwater by industries, agricultural pesticide and fertiliser use, aquaculture activities and waste disposal. Many aquifers are very vulnerable to pollution and some are now severely polluted and may never recover. Ecosystems that depend on groundwater flows (such as rivers and wetlands) will also be affected.

The WSR and proposed National Target Program on Improvement to the Effectiveness of Water Resources Management, Protection, and Use (which has been submitted to the Prime Minister for approval) recognize the importance of groundwater resources and the need to limit groundwater declines and contamination. However, the lack of reliable data and information makes groundwater management challenging.

The workshop on August 31, 2010 convened groundwater specialists from across Vietnam to identify key actors and main sources of information in groundwater matters, and to encourage discussion on issues, challenges, and possible solutions to groundwater management.

Synthesis of key discussion points

Ms. Tran Thi Hue, Head of Water Resources Planning and Exploitation in MONRE, and Dr. Dang Dinh Phuc, gave presentations that confirmed that serious groundwater management issues have the potential to threaten basic environmental health and water supply. They identified key information sources and management responsibilities and there was lively discussion regarding information sharing and access between key actors in groundwater management and research.

It was clear that significant information sources exist for groundwater management. However, the participants confirmed that information is currently not collected or stored in a coordinated manner causing problems for users. Some of the major information management challenges identified in the discussion were:

• Fragmented nature of the information collection, storage, products and availability.
• Pricing and sale of data is ad hoc without clear policy or uniformity between agencies and customers.
• Insufficient baseline resource assessment information and monitoring data for determining sustainable exploitation potential under an IWRM framework.
• Poor data quality, particularly the lack of enforced standards in water quality analysis.
• Significant gaps in terms of legal information, management strategies, policy and procedures.
• Economic development planning is not based on the assessment, exploitation or protection of groundwater resources.
• Professional capacity to implement management, monitoring and assessment is limited.

The regional Centers for Water Resources Planning and Investigation (CWRPI) were identified as the key custodians of groundwater and monitoring data, and participants from MONRE confirmed plans to develop a national information and data management strategy as the WSR recommended. Other sectors with significant management responsibility and/or hold important information include the Ministry of Construction (MoC), Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), some research institutes, universities and NGOs. At a local level the Department of Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DONRE), Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and Department of Construction (DoC) manage groundwater licensing and environmental protection. The capacity of local offices at province, district and commune levels was considered low in terms of both professional expertise and administrative capacity.

There was agreement that a project to inventory the available groundwater data and information sources would be valuable for the water sector in general.

Participants

Prof. Dr. Nguyen Kim Ngoc Prof. Dr. Nguyen Van Lam
M.Sc. Tran Thi Hue M.Sc. Nguyen Minh Khuyen
M.Sc. Le Thieu Son M.Sc. Nguyen Son Tung
M.Sc. Nguyen Thac Cuong Dr. Bui Tran Vuong
M.Sc. Ngo Duc Chan M.Sc. Nguyen Van Son
M.Sc.Bach Ngoc Quang Dr. Tong Ngoc Thanh
Dr. Le Thi Thanh Tam Dr. Dang Dinh Phuc
M.Sc. Trinh Ngoc Tuyen M.Sc. Truong Phuong Dung
Prof. Dr. Nguyen Xuan Tang M.Sc. Nguyen Ngoc Anh
Dr. Le Anh Tuan

References

Dr. Dang Dinh Phuc (2008), General on Groundwater Resources, Department of Water Resources Management, Water Sector Review Project, Hanoi: ADB-TA- 4903 VIE.

Water Sector Review (WSR 2009) Kellogg Brown & Root Pty Ltd (2009), Final Report, ADB TA 4903-VIE Water Sector Review Project, National Water Resources Council, Hanoi.

Kellogg Brown & Root Pty Ltd (2008), ADB TA 4903-VIE Indicator Report, Water Sector Review Project, National Water Resources Council, Hanoi.