Flooding and saltwater intrusion
A large share of the 1999 flooding in Vietnam occurred in the Perfume River Basin in Thua Thien Hue Province. The basin has the highest rainfall in Vietnam, with more than 5 metres of rain per year in the highlands and up to 3 metres of rain in the city of Hue. This results in a high runoff in the rainy season, which is exacerbated by the steep gradient of the Perfume River.

During the past decades, the uplands in the basin have been badly degraded, due to timber extraction for construction and fuel wood, the spraying of defoliants during the war and recent uncontrolled use of wood for fuel. Erosion and large-scale flooding are the result. Yet, during the dry period of the year, the flow of Perfume River diminishes to such an extent that salt water traverses up-river and threatens the domestic water intake of the city.

A solution beyond dikes and dams
The provincial authorities have constructed a number of dikes and dams to contain the flood waters and prevent salt water intrusion. Yet, the devastating floods of 1999, and the less severe floods of 2000, indicate the shortcomings of this structural approach to flood management and mitigation.

An alternative solution that is based on an integrated management approach of the basin is needed. Such an integrated approach can also address the current over-exploitation of resources in the basin and the lagoon.

Finding integrated solutions
The various departments involved in water resources management cooperate very little, despite the recognition of their staff that management interventions from one department always impact those of another. There is only limited exchange of information due to an absence of a clear regulatory framework.

The government formed the Perfume River Project Management Board to guide investment in the river basin. However, the Board does not function as a river basin management authority. The question is whether the various departments and the Board can cooperate effectively on a coherent strategy and a basin management plan to deal with all aspects of water resources and flood management.

From disaster relief to sustainable development
At local levels, very few activities are carried out on flood vulnerability reduction, water resources protection or resource rehabilitation. Most local work has been disaster relief. Other investments, for example in water supply, sanitation or environmental protection have been extremely small or absent. If however the Perfume river basin is to be managed sustainably to reduce flood vulnerability and improve the livelihoods and quality of nature, the implementation of small-scale activities on the ground is fundamental.

The Perfume River Management Project
The long-term goal of the project is an improved flood management and sustainable resource use within the Perfume River Basin based on restored ecological services and an integrated water and land management. The specific objectives of the project are:

  1. To strengthen existing institutions to allow the set-up of an integrated management system for the Perfume river basin
  2. To develop a master plan for the integrated management of the Perfume river basin
  3. To provide technical assistance to the relevant authorities for the environmental benign development of effective flood management that includes both infrastructure and soft-engineering measures
  4. To restore critical pilot areas that have specific values for flood-control and/or the sustainable management of water resources in the basin
  5. To implement community based integrated water resources management activities
  6. To develop well targeted studies on critical issues for sustainable water management and raise awareness on these amongst decision makers at provincial, district and community level

The project provides for a mid-term strategy to deal with some of the critical issues of flooding and over-extraction. It addresses both the direct vulnerability of livelihoods and the environmental needs in the basin in an integrated management plan and pilot activities on the ground. The project will allow the Province of Hue to move from disaster mitigation towards sustainable resource use and conservation.

Government of Vietnam (Provincial People's Committee, Perfume River Project Management Board), Asian Development Bank, JICA. JBIC

Duration and cost
The project is scheduled to take 5 years at a total cost of US$ 2.8 million.

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