Attending the final workshop of the project on integrated management of Vu Gia – Thu Bon river basin and the coastal areas of Quang Nam and Da Nang this middle of June in Hoi An city, one does not have the impression of seeing something final or closing, as in the case of a typical ‘final project workshops.’ Instead, participants were still found absorbed in some more heated discussions on the very complex issues of the regional river basin from flood management, drought management, water quality management, to erosion management, and many more.
This workshop—last in a chain of Shared Learning Dialogues (SLDs) organized under the project funded by the Global Resilience Partnership (GRP) and technically led by ISET—was chaired by the Vice Chairman of Quang Nam People’s Committee, Mr. Le Tri Thanh, and attended by some 70 participants from various stakeholder organizations and individuals, including local and national government officials, scientists, experts, local community members, and donor organizations. The SLD events have been serving as a structured platform for the inter-provincial River Basin Organization (RBO) of Quang Nam and Da Nang to work on cross-boundary water management issues in the river basin. Built on the discussions and analysis results laid out in the previous SLDs, this workshop dug deep into the following topics:
- The need to build a more comprehensive understanding of the entire river basin to enable its integrated management
- Issues with the current protocol for inter-reservoir operation in the Vu Gia – Thu Bon River basin (or Decision 1537/QD-TTg), and suggestions to how the protocol should be modified to better facilitate flood and drought management in downstream areas.
- The impacts of riverbank erosion in upstream areas and the need for a better understanding of this issue
Listening to the passionate discussions that followed the presentations on the above topics, one can be overwhelmed by the technical and practical complexities of the issues, as well as the breath and depth of knowledge and perspectives brought in by the diverse stakeholders around the table. However, participants can also see above this a growing openness to ideas and viewpoints, and the eagerness to join efforts to map out pathways and resolve the problems for the benefit of both Quang Nam and Da Nang, both upstream and downstream, and for economic, environmental and social sustainability in the river basin as a whole.
Last but not least, the workshop also tried to reflect on the entire project and the structure it set up for the RBO operation for lessons learnt and suggestions. Dr. Karen MacClune, the Chief Operation Officer of ISET, expressed appreciation of the project’s successes in strengthening the collaboration between Quang Nam and Da Nang over the last one and a half year. With the ongoing commitment of both provinces’ leadership, Quang Nam and Da Nang are expected to keep the momentum and continue their ongoing collaborative efforts after the project ends. She also emphasized how the Shared Learning Dialogue (SLD) process was a very effective means to get stakeholders together and enable knowledge sharing and trust building, and how engagement with local communities was an essential part throughout this process. Personal stories shared at the inter-provincial platform had helped RBO members better understand the gaps in both current policy and with the flood early warning systems, which demonstrated the need to institutionalize community participation in the operation of RBOs in general.
Dr. MacClune also emphasized the need to align the RBO operation with more long-term strategic visioning and with its potential executive capacities. The workshop has seen the opening up of various opportunities for these valuable lessons to be taken up at the national level, especially with Ms. Tran Thi Le Anh—representative from Ministry of Natural resources and Environment (MONRE)—sharing the ministry’s plan for a new GEF/UNDP funded project to support the operation of the RBO until 2024, as well as its upcoming policy and plan regarding the establish of major RBOs in Vietnam. With the prospect of the continued cross-border platform, the workshop participants all look forward to meeting again soon and working together more on the many unresolved issues in the river basin.
Tho Nguyen, ISET-Vietnam