Mangrove Afforestation in the Mekong Delta for sustainable coastal resilience

The workshop on “Mangrove Afforestation in the Mekong Delta for sustainable coastal resilience” which is co-organised by the Netherlands Embassy in Hanoi, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam (MARD) took place in Ha Noi.

The mangrove belt and the coastal zone of the Mekong-Delta are in a serious state of degradation. This is of serious concern, since in this soft-sediment environment, the mangrove-sea-dike combination (green-grey) is the preferred option for a sustainable coastal defence system at acceptable construction and maintenance costs. The Mekong Delta cannot rely on the relatively rigid dike structure alone, subject to foreshore and dike erosion, subject to direct wave attack.

Degradation is the result of a long-term development, not only of the mangroves trees themselves. It concerns lack of sediment even far upstream the Mekong River (sand mining, dams), the land use in the coastal zone pressing the dike seaward, leaving too little intertidal zone for the mangroves, the inadequate water management and overexploitation of groundwater resulting in land subsidence, four to five times more serious than sea-level rise. A mangrove belt, partly or fully developed mitigates many of these problems, but flanking measures remain important to address the beforementioned issues. Specific for the Mekong Delta is also the pressure from inland shrimp farming. Modernisation of its water management and a cascade system may well contribute to co‑existence with a well-developed mangrove coast. From this perspective it is clear that a holistic approach that goes beyond mangrove restoration alone is required to create the right conditions in the long term for the preferred green-grey coastal-defence infrastructure. Sand mining and sediment issues, land subsidence and restructuring of the aquaculture as well as mangrove management itself are all challenges that need a long-term approach, coherence and perseverance.

This long-term approach finds its base in Resolution 120 (2017) and the draft Mekong Delta Integrated Regional Plan (scheduled 2022). Further implementation in Provincial Master Plans.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of the Netherlands have committed to support the Government of Vietnam in strengthening the coastal zones of the Mekong Delta and the resilience of its inhabitants. MARD is currently working on a proposal to to restore the natural environment and strengthen coastal protection to increase resilience to the impacts of climate change in five coastal provinces (Bac Lieu, Soc Trang, Tra Vinh, Ben Tre and Tien Giang). The Netherlands government has commissioned a consortium of Royal HaskoningDHV and Wetlands International to assist the ADB by contributing to the early stages of project development for the mangrove afforestation project. Signboard of this assignment is a technical report International lessons learnt with a comprehensive overview of success and fail factors for mangrove-restoration projects. Along with lessons learnt in the Vietnamese situation of the Mekong Delta, this has led to conclusions and recommendations for the MARD-ADB project in the five provinces. It is expected that with this nature based solution approach, Viet Nam will further contribute to biodiversity improvement and climate change mitigation.

Through the presentations by experts and discussions among central, local, Vietnamese and international stakeholders, the workshop is expected to raise awareness of mangrove afforestation and protection through communication activities, for the alignment of planning and implementation of mangrove projects. It also aims to enhance the compatibility of the planned mangrove afforestation initiative of MARD in the overall planning of the Mekong Delta and facilitates a platform where stakeholders at central and local levels dialogue for smooth, effective and efficient cooperation and coordination. The Dutch experts use this opportinity to identify what the Netherlands could do to contribute further to this trajectory.

There are about 50 participants from MARD and other relevant ministries, central governmental agencies and coastal provinces in the Mekong Delta, representatives from key international partners active in mangrove development in the region, being the Netherlands Embassy, ADB, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)…

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