Do strategic delta plans get implemented? The case of the Mekong Delta Plan

  • Chris SeijgerEmail author
  • Vo Thi Minh Hoang
  • Gerardo van Halsema
  • Wim Douven
  • Andrew Wyatt
Original Article


A strategic delta plan can alter the course of delta management. Implementation of such a plan essentially involves a change of minds about delta management priorities and strategies for sustainable livelihoods. Such a change of minds, or “soft implementation”, must come before material, or “hard”, implementation can take off. To explore the influence of strategic delta plans in bringing about a change of minds among the actors involved, we examined four features of soft implementation: prospects for change, new mental models, consent and decision-making. We then applied these features to analyse implementation of the Mekong Delta Plan (MDP). The MDP envisions agro-industrialisation in the Mekong Delta, with dynamic land use, high-value commodities and enhanced interprovincial collaboration. We found that 3 years after its completion, the MDP has indeed been influential in introducing new ways of thinking about both delta problems and transformative strategies for agribusiness development. Minds have changed at all levels of the planning system, though change at the local level remains most limited. Implementation is fragile, however, as a small though influential group actively promotes and subscribes to the MDP’s precepts. The plan has influenced national policies, provincial project proposals and donor loans. We found the four features to provide a valuable entry point for assessing the influence and effectiveness of the strategic delta plan. They might prove useful to planners, investors and researchers too in designing and evaluating strategic planning processes for more sustainable land and water resources management.


Strategic planning Transitions Social learning Governance Soft implementation Mekong Delta 



Our special gratitude goes to the interviewees for sharing their insights on Mekong Delta planning with us. A special thanks goes to Dr. Long of Tra Vinh University for on-the-ground support for the interviews and field trips. We are grateful to Prof. Nhan and Assoc. Prof. Vu of Can Tho University for creating and sharing the Mekong Delta land use map. We also thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on this manuscript.

Funding information

This research was funded by the Urbanising Deltas of the World Programme of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) under Project No. W 07.69.106.

Supplementary material

10113_2019_1464_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (94 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 94 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chris Seijger
    • 1
    Email author
  • Vo Thi Minh Hoang
    • 2
    • 3
  • Gerardo van Halsema
    • 2
  • Wim Douven
    • 1
  • Andrew Wyatt
    • 4
  1. 1.IHE Delft, Department of Integrated Water Systems and GovernanceDelftThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Water Resources Management GroupWageningen University and ResearchWageningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Faculty of EnvironmentUniversity of Science VNU-HCMHo Chi Minh CityVietnam
  4. 4.International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)Ho Chi Minh CityVietnam

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