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Speeches & Transcripts February 6, 2018

Speech by Achim Fock, Acting Country Director, The World Bank in Vietnam at Water Governance Workshop

Distinguished Guesses; Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a privilege to me to be here today attending this workshop. We all gather here to reflect on why vietnam must manage its precious water better.

Vietnam’s water is its most precious natural resource – but it is not limitless

With average rainfall of almost 2,000 mm a year and nearly 2,500 rivers in sixteen major basins, Vietnam appears to be rich in water.  However, two thirds of Vietnam’s water resources flow in from neighbouring countries upstream, and water resources are highly seasonal and unevenly distributed across the country.  As a result, Vietnam ranks quite low in the region for water availability - 4,200 m³ per person compared to the average of 4,900 m³ for Southeast Asia.

Vietnam has worked for centuries to develop and use this precious resource for the good of its people.

With over 7,500 dams and reservoirs and 4 million hectares of irrigated area, irrigation brings livelihoods to half the workforce and their families, generating nearly one fifth of the nation’s income.

Hydropower generates 42% of the country’s electricity – and does it cleanly.

Huge investment has brought clean drinking water to the great majority of households.

Rivers, streams and lakes enhance a beautiful countryside for people and nature.

Yet water also has great destructive power

Flash floods kill an average of 50 people every year.

Cities and farms in the Mekong Delta are flooded up to 3 metres every year.

More than 30 dam failures in the last five years led to devastating regional flooding, loss of human life and substantial economic losses.

The 2016 drought affected 18 provinces, damaged the livelihoods of 2 million Vietnamese, and cost the nation VND 15 billion.


…..and there are big and growing risks

Pollution is fouling the water resource.  Only 10% of municipal and industrial wastewater is treated, and sewage and industrial effluent are dumped into watercourses.  Rivers in and around major cities are considered ‘dead rivers’.

Salt water is flowing into surface and groundwater.  In 2016, salt water flowed almost 100 km up the Mekong.  200,000 hectares of crops were ruined, and rice and shrimp production plummeted.

Vietnam is one of the five countries worldwide most vulnerable to climate change.  The threats are rising sea level – of 30 cm by 2050, declining flows in rivers, and more frequent and intense droughts, storms and floods.


There is still much untapped potential in water

Agriculture uses 90% of the nation’s water and much more value could be obtained.  New technology like drip irrigation and higher yielding crop varieties can give farmers much more ‘dollar per drop’.

There are ambitious plans for developing more hydropower, and also chances to get more production and revenue out of existing dams by optimizing hydropower cascades.


So how can Vietnam manage its water better?

Water flows continuously from upstream to downstream from the fall of rain or the flow of rivers from neighbouring countries right down to where it is used or flows out to sea,

The challenge is to manage the whole water cycle to get the maximum benefit from every drop, to ensure the quality of the water, to manage the high and growing levels of risk, and to leave enough good quality water for Vietnam’s countryside and its flora and fauna.  And to do this not only for today but for future generations.



Vietnam needs all its people, its businesses, agencies and central and local government working together to get the best value from water throughout the whole cycle, and to protect water resources for this and future generations.

For some years, Vietnam has embarked on the integrated management of its water resources - taking a ‘whole basin approach’ to planning, investing and managing for water, and working to integrate actions within basins across all sectors and ministries and between the centre and local areas

Now, with fast economic growth and rising demand for water, and with growing risks, more needs to be done.  There are many challenges facing the nation to get the best out of its water resources and to do this sustainably.

We gather here to learn more from you on the rising demands, growing risks, and the shift needed to ensure water security for generations to come.