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Australian water experts support development of amendments to Vietnam’s Law on Water Resources

Yvette Colton (Aither) and Karlene Maywald (Maywald Consultants) presenting on Sustainable water resources management in Australia.
In August 2023, Yvette Colton (Aither) and Karlene Maywald (Maywald Consultants) met with representatives of Vietnam’s National Assembly, Government of Vietnam officials, and other water sector stakeholders to discuss legal and policy water reform soon to be adopted under amendments to Vietnam’s Law on Water Resources. Yvette and Karlene shared lessons from Australia’s water reform experience, demonstrating the importance of a clear vision for change, effective mechanisms for coordination, and an adequately resourced implementation program. The visit played a significant role in fostering confidence in Vietnam’s reform program. This was achieved through the sharing of Australia’s valuable experiences in implementing similar reforms. This visit builds on 10 months of collaboration and technical support funded by the Australian Water Partnership (AWP) at the request of the Government of Vietnam Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE). Delivered by a consortium led by Aither and including AMPERES, EMM Consulting, legislative drafting consultant Richard Dennis, and leading Vietnamese practitioners in water management, economics and policy (working alongside colleagues), the project has delivered technical advice and capacity building. It also supported key decision-makers from Vietnam to visit Australia to learn about Australian water management experiences. Australian advice has informed the drafting by Vietnamese experts of key sections of the amended Law on Water Resources, with amendments currently being debated by the National Assembly of Vietnam. During the visit to Vietnam, a training and engagement workshop was held on lessons from Australia’s experience of sustainable water resources management with approximately 60 Vietnamese government agency representatives. At the training workshop, Yvette and Karlene presented on governance and planning measures relevant to Vietnam’s circumstances, based on Australian experience, and provided training on policy enablers for water reform. Vietnamese experts also presented on reform directions under amendments to the Law, climate change risk and water planning approaches. Workshop discussions revealed that Vietnam’s strong vision for change requires effective mechanisms for coordination and an adequately resourced implementation program. Key future priorities identified by participants in support of reform included the need for:
  • River basin organisations with vertical and horizontal measures to support coordination and engagement, appropriate governance and a sustainable funding base;
  • Enhancements to data collection and sharing frameworks, economic incentives and tools, and water planning and licensing measures to set the right motivations and controls for sustained change; and
  • Further integration, harmonisation and capacity development within the Government and the water sector to reach negotiated outcomes for sustainable water sharing and to effectively implement reform.
Attendees during a presentation
Yvette and Karlene also presented on Australian experiences and the rationale for water management reforms and engaged in discussions at a stakeholder workshop in Can Tho, arranged by the Committee on Science, Technology and Environment of the National Assembly and MONRE. The workshop was attended by over 100 delegates from the water sector in Vietnam’s southern provinces to respond to comments on the Law on Water Resources. The focus of the workshop was on resolving remaining issues and ensuring the law provides a coherent, feasible framework in different settings and according to different stakeholder needs. Thuy Anh Nguyen, Program coordinator from MONRE, said that presentations delivered by Australian officials “validated and provided strong justification for reform directions Vietnam is pursuing”.

Mr Chau Tran Vinh, Director General of the Department of Water Resources Management (DWRM), highlighted that evidence of international experience is a key measure underpinning confidence to progress Vietnam’s ambitious water reform program.

Yvette Colton (Aither) and Karlene Maywald (Maywald Consultants) share insights about Australia’s experience in water governance, at the National Assembly workshop.
During the visit to Vietnam, Yvette, Karlene and Vanessa O’Keefe (EMM Consulting) continued the Aither-led consortium’s ongoing engagement with DWRM’s drafting team to provide expert advice in support of final amendments to the Law and the development of the supporting Implementation Decree. Face-to-face contact has fostered new and deepened relationships between partners and discussions highlighted new and emerging areas of cooperation and collaboration where further Australian support would be welcomed by Vietnamese colleagues. This included a desire for further sharing of Australian approaches, insights and technical advice to develop subordinate instruments under the Law and capacity building and support for the development of an implementation strategy for the water reform program.
Meetings with Mr Chau Tran Vinh, Director General of the Department of Water Resources Management (DWRM).
Amendments to the Law are anticipated to be passed later this year. Several amendments have been proposed based on an appraisal of the current Law completed in May 2023, following a high-level delegation from Vietnam’s National Assembly, the Government Office of Vietnam and MONRE to Victoria and South Australia in April 2023. This resulted in strengthened legislative provisions relating to water exploitation volumes, integrated planning, and roles and responsibilities of river basin organisations, based on lessons from Australian experience. DWRM representatives and workshop participants reflected that the visit by the Australian team to Vietnam had provided useful information to progress law reform and water security objectives. It is hoped that there will be further opportunities for Australian expertise to be deployed in line with the strong demand for this based on Vietnam and Australia’s shared aspirations to improve use of water and optimise the value of scarce water resources.
Featured image: First image- Around 60 participants attended the workshop Sustainable water resources management in Australia – Lessons learned on Thursday 3 August, including representatives of the Australian Embassy in Vietnam, Water Resources Institute (MONRE), Department of Technical Infrastructure (Ministry of Construction), National Centre for Water Resources Planning and Investigation (NAWAPI) (MONRE), Office of Vietnam National Mekong Committee (MONRE), Institute of Water Resources Planning (IWRP) (MARD), Department of Energy (MOIT), University of Natural Resources and Environment, Centre for Natural Resources Information and Economics (DWRM, MONRE), Centre for River Basin Monitoring and Development Support (DWRM, MONRE), Centre for Water Resources Appraisal and Calibration (DWRM, MONRE), Department of Water Resources (MONRE), and Ha Noi Association of Persons with Disability (DP Ha Noi). Second image- Attendees taking part in the National Assembly workshop on Monday 7 August 2023 in Can Tho.
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