New law on water resources to transform water management: expert
Chau Tran Vinh, Director of the Department of Water Resources Management under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, speaks to the Vietnam News Agency about the 2023 Law on Water Resources, which has recently been adopted at the sixth session of the 15th National Assembly. 
Dau Tieng lake, the largest reservoir in the country which covers an area of 27,000ha in the three provinces of Tay Ninh, Binh Duong and Binh Phuoc__Photo: Giang Phuong/VNA

Chau Tran Vinh, Director of the Department of Water Resources Management under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, speaks to the Vietnam News Agency about the 2023 Law on Water Resources, which has recently been adopted at the sixth session of the 15th National Assembly. 

From the viewpoint of a lawmaking agency, what are the new points of the 2023 Law on Water Resources?

Law 28/2023/QH15 on Water Resources was passed with many new provisions that will greatly change the way water resources are currently managed in Vietnam.

One of the key highlights and the core principle of the law is that water supply must be managed in a comprehensive and integrated manner in terms of quantity and quality, surface and underground, upstream and downstream water. It also defines clear responsibilities for state management in terms of water supply and resources, notably the planning, construction and operation of irrigation, hydropower, as well as urban and rural water supply structures. This is the foundation to improve Vietnam’s water security. 

The law was also built in a way that regulates all aspects of management, protection and use of water resources, preventing and controlling water-induced damage, while clearly defining “what to manage, how to manage and who will manage”. 

The law specifies the responsibilities of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Ministry of Construction, among others, in alignment with their missions in related laws to ensure cohesion and comprehensiveness; addresses the overlapped and contradictory clauses as well as the “gaps” in these laws to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the state management of water resources, ensuring national water security. 

On that basis, water resources, regulated in a cohesive and synchronized manner, will be distributed for different purposes and to various localities according to water management scenarios to ensure water security of the country. 

The law stipulates that priority is urbanization and professionalization of water resources management, aiming to monitor the country’s water resources on digital platforms through the national information system and database on water resources, as well as other instruments that aid the decision-making process.

Therefore, in the near future, digital platforms will be increasingly applied in supporting management agencies in their decision-making process for regulating and distributing water resources, operating reservoirs and inter-reservoirs, mitigating water-induced damage, especially in the case of drought and water shortage in river basins, thereby optimizing human resources as well as operational and management costs. 

What are the key provisions of the 2023 Law on Water Resources to address challenges in water security, especially in major cities?

Water resources in Vietnam are indeed facing many challenges. In fact, 60 percent of our water (approximately 504.4 billion cubic meters) depends on foreign sources. Meanwhile, local water is unevenly distributed and the dry season lasts seven to nine months.

On the other hand, water demand increases rapidly along with the pressure of socio-economic development. Specifically, over the past 50 years, the demand for water has seen a three-fold increase on average due to population growth, agricultural and industrial development and urbanization. It is estimated that by 2030, the water demand for industries will reach about 122.47 billion cubic meters per year. 

In addition, worsening water pollution, and increasing industrial and agricultural production that leads to untreated and unqualified wastewater discharge, have impacted and put a growing, serious burden on water quantity and quality in rivers, streams and aquifers, especially Nhue-Day river basin, Cau river and the Bac Hung Hai hydraulic-work system. 

According to the World Bank, water pollution can reduce GDP by 4.3 percent each year. If Vietnam does not carry out radical solutions for wastewater treatment problems, its GDP will decrease by 2.5 percent in 2035. 

Facing these challenges, the 2023 Law on Water Resources sets out new orientations, strategies and policies of the Party and the State in managing and protecting water resources, in which policies on water security are present throughout the chapters and articles.

The goal is that by 2030, Vietnam aims to improve national water security to be among the Southeast Asian countries with effective water security and on par with developed countries in the world; ensure the quantity and quality of domestic water in all scenarios, respond to water demands for socio-economic development, national defense and security and environmental protection; and mitigate risks and damage from natural and human-induced water disasters. 

How will the 2023 Law on Water Resources contribute to reviving polluted or dried-up rivers? 

I have high hopes for reviving and restoring these “dead rivers” in this amendment. 

For specific legal frameworks, the 2023 Law on Water Resources added multiple policies and regulations related to reviving rivers. To ensure the scientific grounds and feasibility, it also stipulates clear financial policies and mechanisms for restoring water supply, paving the way for resource mobilization and distribution to revitalize degraded, depleted and polluted water.

The law also has regulations on devising plans, programs and projects to restore degraded, depleted and polluted water supply, with priority given to the “dead rivers” to revive these streams; including priority programs and projects reviving Bac Hung Hai and Nhue-Day rivers by constructing dams to facilitate flows. 

In addition, the law also has provisions on the minimum flow to mitigate the impacts of upstream flow-regulating constructions, dams and reservoirs on the stream, contributing to reviving “dead rivers” across the country.

How does the 2023 Law on Water Resources regulate the economization of water supply, especially in major cities?

One of the new points of the law is shifting from management through administrative means to economic means. This is a modern approach that has been applied in many developed countries around the world such as France, Australia, South Korea and the US. 

Accordingly, the law added regulations on the charges required to be granted rights to capitalize on water resources in order to raise awareness about water protection and economical use of water. 

Particularly, in case of drought or water shortage, water distribution to water-intensive or non-urgent activities will be limited, and instead, prioritized for domestic use and activities that make use of water effectively and economically. 

What can be done in the near future to mobilize the power of the people for water protection efforts?

I think when any law is approved, including the 2023 Law on Water Resources, the realization of policies within the law is a key factor in assessing the law’s success. 

Therefore, since the drafting phase, we reviewed and evaluated the implementation of the 2012 Law on Water Resources, and identified the current shortcomings in order to develop policies that fit Vietnam’s actual context (from water management, protection, exploitation and use to the prevention and control of water-induced damage as well as the compatibility with the country’s resources). 

The 2023 Law on Water Resources added provisions on the funding to protect and develop water resources (including regulations on private capital; and regulations that prioritize privatization for investment in water development, storage and supply revival as well as preferential policies), ensuring that economic development is in alignment with “reinvestment” in water resource protection and development as well as landscape renovation. 

What are the expectations of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment when the 2023 Law on Water Resources is passed and put into application?

The issuance of the new law will be a crucial transformation in the thinking, approach and management of water sources, bearing special significance. 

With major, breakthrough and important policies in the law, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has great expectations and believes that the law will be enacted effectively and comprehensively to address the challenges to water resources under the pressure of socio-economic development, while meeting the requirements of the Party and the State regarding water resource management and protection, especially in improving national security to approach the same level as developed countries in the world. 

It is hoped that in the next five to ten years, water resources will be sustainably managed and reflect their value as a public asset, and that people will have access to fair, clean and safe water supply.-


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