Water Allocation in an Economy in Transition: Institutional Challenges and Opportunities in Vietnam

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"Therefore, the aims of this paper are to contribute toward: understanding the practical institutional challenges in relation to water allocation reform in Vietnam: identifying and discussing a number of possible options for Vietnam and discussing the importance of timing and sequence in their implementation and; the broader policy debate surrounding water allocation in developing and other countries whose economies are in transition. "Section 2 begins with a description of the changing socio- economic patterns driving increases in the types and amount of water used in both consumptive and non-consumptive sectors. It then outlines the critical national resource management issues that have developed, provides an assessment of water scarcity and the need for allocation responses, and demonstrates how growing demand and development create new resource management challenges and add to the complexity of developing a sustainable water allocation system. "Section 3 draws on existing institutional analysis frameworks to examine the linkages between external institutional factors, internal institutional structures and water sector performance. In particular, it demonstrates how the incomplete political-economic transition affects policy and decision-making, that this has resulted in changes in the organisational structure and roles and responsibilities of national level agencies involved in water management, and, in turn, this has contributed to ineffective water rights and allocation mechanisms at an inter-sectoral scale. "Section 4 draws on the findings of the institutional analysis as well as key international lessons in water rights reform to outline elements of a phased reform process for Vietnam focusing on: improving coordination and commitment through understanding and inclusion; developing rules for inter-sectoral allocation that allow transparent, adaptive management to take place; and strengthening of institutional networks as a necessary strategy to strengthen rights before market based approaches can even be considered. Emphasis is placed on the need to build capacity in each of the three phases. "Section 5 concludes the paper by summarising the key arguments. Evidence for the paper is drawn mainly from the experience of the author working for one year in the Bureau of Policy and Planning in the Department of Water Resources Management (DWRM), Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE). This included designing and implementing a national level cross-Ministerial consultation process on water allocation and a rapid sub-basin scale case-study conducted from June to November 2005. These activities were funded by the United States Asia Environment Program (USAEP) of USAID and aimed at identifying and exploring the issues and challenges associated with water allocation planning and management in Vietnam. The case study examined the competing demands for water across the six provinces in the Nhue-Day subriver basin, which is part of the Red River Delta. It aimed to demonstrate how a participatory (bottom up) approach could be combined with economic valuation techniques (top-down) to demonstrate trade-offs to decision-makers and contribute towards identifying equitable, efficient and sustainable inter-sectoral allocation rules. "This paper is based on this experience and extensive discussions with many people. Any opinions expressed are those of the author and any errors and omissions are entirely the responsibility of the author."



IASC, water resources, institutions, riparian rights, transitional economics