Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals,communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.
Country Water ActionsViet Nam: Next Generation RBO— Preparing for a Hydropower Future
Writer Consultant for the Cooperation Fund for the Water Sector Viet Nam is gearing up for a future in hydropower, with 8hydropower projects proposed in the Vu Gia-Thu Bon riverbasin in the next 10 years. Quang Nam province keeps astep ahead by setting up a unique river basin organization(RBO) to manage the challenges and opportunities raised bythis prospect. By keeping it simple, practical and replicable,the new RBO has become more participatory and innovativethan its predecessors. Can it sustain this momentum?
HYDROPOWER FUTURE IN THE HORIZON
The Government of Viet Nam is turningto its waterresources togenerate exportableenergy from themthat will supply thecountry with thecapital it needs tomodernize its citiesand lift millions outof rural poverty.At the center of Viet Nam's hydropower agenda is the VuGia-Thu Bon River Basin. Eight hydropower projects areproposed for the next 10 years in this basin, with somedams already under construction.Naturally, this scale of hydropower development brings new"challenges and opportunities," writes consultant JeremyBird in an April 2006 draft report proposing to ADB a basinplan for the Vu Gia-Thu Bon.The combination of these pre-existing environmentalstrains-such as coastal flooding and changes in riveralignments, erosion, salinity intrusion, droughts, andindustrial pollution-and the advent of hydropower calls for"an altogether more coordinated institutional response thanthe mandate that any one agency provides," Bird writes.An innovative solution is already underway for this basin inQuang Nam province. There, a next generation of riverbasin organizations (RBOs) is being tested with assistancefrom ADB'sPilot and Demonstration Activity(PDA) program.
WHAT THIS NEXT GEN RBO LOOKS LIKE
In actuality, RBOs in Viet Nam are a relatively young idea,but they've grown through some challenging times,prompting experts like Tim McGrath, a consultant hired byADB to help facilitate thepilot project in Quang Nam, tothink of ways to help develop a next and better generationof RBOs. This next generation must succeed all the more inintroducing Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM)to various levels of government and communities belongingto the basin, all of which play a hand in how the basin iscurrently managed and need to be managed in light of thegovernment's hydropower agenda.A major challenge in establishing the organization, McGrathsaid, is Viet Nam's challenging history with RBOs, somethingBird says is well acknowledged by the Government. Studieson Viet Nam's three major RBOs highlight the lack of aroadmap for where the RBOs should be headed, leaving theRBOs operating more reactively than proactively. As aresult, two of the three major RBOs have rarely met sincebeing established in 2004. Also problematic in the past hasbeen their location in either Hanoi or Ho Chi Min City-ratherthan based near the communities on the managementfrontlines.Parting with past performance, though, McGrath says, "Thisnew committee could very well be a new model for Viet Namand elsewhere … although it is a simple committee in that itonly has to deal with one province, it is testing and provinggood principles that other river basin organizations dealingwith cross-jurisdictional roles and responsibilities can use."Provincial stakeholders establishing this next generation RBOare encouraged to keep things:
—in structure, membership, roles, andresponsibilities; this way, the capacity of theorganization grows with the capacity of its individualmembers, local planners, managers, technicians, andcommunities. "The key is to work with the province todevelop and stabilize the basic institutional structurebefore more complex technical and planning issuesare placed on the agenda of the organization,"McGrath writes.
—by involving community members in thenew organization, the organization would come tounderstand and incorporate the priorities of the poor,their relationship to water resources, and how theyresolve problems, and recover from natural disasters.
—experts would work with the neworganizations on a model that aligns with nationalpolicy and institutional frameworks, not internationalor foreign models. As a result, early provincialimplementers could demonstrate their scheme toother provinces and advocate it as a Viet Nam modelfor IWRM in basins.