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.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
The Mekong Delta Plan attracted an initial US$310 million loan from the World Bank. Second and third instalments of similar amounts are expected towards 2030. The Dutch Delta Programme commands a budget of some €15 billion up to 2028. The Bangladesh Delta Plan seeks to earmark $70 billion up to 2050.
Master planning in Vietnam is done by line ministries, which set targets for development towards 2030. Recently, approved master plans cover agriculture (Decision 124/QD-TT), aquaculture (Decision 1445/QD-TT) and industrial development (Decision 879/QD-TTg).
Initially, this led to semantic confusions around the English and Vietnamese meanings of delta plan. For some policy and bureaucratic stakeholders, the very word plan brought expectations of an investment programme in the traditional master plan style. Establishing the MDP as a visionary document integrating, the myriad of sector plans was thus a change of minds process itself.
Albrechts L (2004) Strategic (spatial) planning reexamined. Environ Plann B: Plann Des 31:743–758. https://doi.org/10.1068/b3065
Albrechts L (2015) Ingredients for a more radical strategic spatial planning. Environ Plann B: Plann Des 42:510–525. https://doi.org/10.1068/b130104p
Albrechts L, Balducci A (2013) Practicing strategic planning: in search of critical features to explain the strategic character of plans. DISP 49:16–27. https://doi.org/10.1080/02513625.2013.859001
Arkema KK, Abramson SC, Dewsbury BM (2006) Marine ecosystem-based management: from characterization to implementation. Front Ecol Environ 4:525–532. https://doi.org/10.1890/1540-9295(2006)4[525:MEMFCT]2.0.CO;2
Benedikter S (2013) The Vietnamese hydrocracy and the Mekong delta. In: Water resources development from state socialism to bureaucratic captalism. Lit Verlag, Berlin
Biggs D (2012) Quagmire: nation-building and nature in the Mekong Delta. University of Washington Press, Seatle
Briassoulis H (1989) Theoretical orientations in environmental planning: an inquiry into alternative approaches. Environ Manag 13:381–392. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01867673
Brody SD, Highfield WE (2005) Does planning work? Testing the implementation of local environmental planning in Florida. J Am Plan Assoc 71:159–175. https://doi.org/10.1080/01944360508976690
Can ND, Khiem NT, Hossain M, Tuong TP (2010) Farmers’ assessment of resource management and farm-level technological interventions in the Mekong Delta. In: Hoanh CT, Szuster BW, Suan-Pheng K, Ismail AM, Noble AD. (eds) Tropical Deltas and Coastal Zones: Food production, Communities and Environment at the Land-Water Interface, Wallingford, CABI, pp 307–319
Chapman AD, Darby SE, Hồng HM, Tompkins EL, van TPD (2016) Adaptation and development trade-offs: fluvial sediment deposition and the sustainability of rice-cropping in An Giang Province, Mekong Delta. Clim Chang 137:593–608. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-016-1684-3
Checkland P, Scholes J (1990) Soft systems methodology in action. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester
Cosslett TL, Cosslett PD (2014) The Mekong Delta Provinces. In: Cosslett TL, Cosslett PD (eds) Water resources and food security in the Vietnam Mekong Delta. Springer, Cham, pp 23–74
CPRA Lousiana (2012) Louisiana’s comprehensive master plan for a sustainable coast. Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana, Baton Rouge
Crabtree BF, Miller WL (1999) Using codes and code manuals: a template organizing style of interpretation. In: Crabtree B, Miller W (eds) Doing qualitative research. Sage, Thousand Oaks, pp 163–177
De Geus A (1988) Planning as learning. Harv Bus Rev 66:70–74
Environment Agency (2012) Thames Estuary 2100: managing flood risk though London and the Thames Estuary. Environment Agency, London
Erban L, Gorelick S, Zebker H (2014) Groundwater extraction, land subsidence, and sea-level rise in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. Environ Res Lett 9(8):084010. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/9/8/084010/meta
Faludi A (2000) The performance of spatial planning. Plan Pract Res 15:299–318. https://doi.org/10.1080/713691907
Flyvbjerg B (2006) Five misunderstandings about case-study research. Qual Inq 12:219–245. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800405284363
GED (2018) Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100. General Economics Division, Dhaka
George AL, Bennett A (2005) Case studies and theory development in the social sciences. MIT Press, Cambridge
Gibbert M, Ruigrok W, Wicki B (2008) What passes as a rigorous case study? Strateg Manag J 29:1465–1474. https://doi.org/10.1002/smj.722
Giordano M, Shah T (2014) From IWRM back to integrated water resources management. Int J Water Resour Dev 30:364–376. https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2013.851521
Grin J, Van De Graaf H (1996) Implementation as communicative action. Policy Sci 29:291–319. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00138406
Guong V, Hoa N (2012) Aquaculture and agricultural production in the Mekong Delta and its effects on nutrient pollution of soil and water. In: Renaud F, Künzer C (eds) The Mekong Delta: interdisciplinary analyses of a River Delta. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 363–393. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-3962-8_14
Healey P (2009) In search of the “strategic” in spatial strategy making. Plann Theory Pract 10:439–457. https://doi.org/10.1080/14649350903417191
Hoanh CT, Phong ND, Gowing JW, Tuong TP, Hien NX, Dat ND (2006) Predicting impacts of water management in coastal zones by hydraulic and salinity modeling. In: Voinov A, Jakeman A, Rizzoli A (eds) iEMSs third biennial meeting: summit on environmental modeling and software. International environmental modeling and software society, Burlington, pp 1–6
Hupe PL, Hill MJ (2015) ‘And the rest is implementation.’ Comparing approaches to what happens in policy processes beyond Great Expectations. Publ Pol Admin 31:103–121. https://doi.org/10.1177/0952076715598828
Huu Nguyen H, Dargusch P, Moss P, Tran DB (2016) A review of the drivers of 200 years of wetland degradation in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. Reg Environ Chang 16:2303–2315. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-016-0941-3
ICEM (2015) A guide to resilient decision-making in the Mekong delta. International Center for Environmental Management, Hanoi
Innes JE (1996) Planning through consensus building: a new view of the comprehensive planning ideal. J Am Plan Assoc 62:460–472. https://doi.org/10.1080/01944369608975712
JICA, Sanyu Consultants and Newjec (2013) The project for climate change adaptation for sustainable agriculture and rural development in the coastal Mekong Delta in Vietnam. Final Report. Japan International Cooperation Agency, Tokyo
Joffre O, Bosma R (2009) Typology of shrimp farming in Bac Lieu Province, Mekong Delta, using multivariate statistics. Agric Ecosyst Environ 132(1):153–159. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2009.03.010
Kien N, Dumaresq D, Howie C (2016) Dike Compartments in the Mekong Delta: Case Studies in Water Governance, Farming Systems and Adaptation to Water-Regime Changes in An Giang Province, Vietnam. In: Blake D, Robins L (eds) Water Governance Dynamics in the Mekong Region. Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, Selangor, pp 279–310
Künzer C, Renaud F (2012) Climate and environmental change in river deltas globally: expected impacts, resilience, and adaptation. In: Renaud F, Künzer C (eds) The Mekong Delta: interdisciplinary analyses of a River Delta. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 7–46
Kwakkel J, Walker W, Haasnoot M (2016) Coping with the wickedness of public policy problems: approaches for decision making under deep uncertainty. J Water Resour Plan Manag 142:01816001. https://doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)WR.1943-5452.0000626
Laćan I, Resh VH (2016) A case study in integrated management: Sacramento–San Joaquin Rivers and Delta of California, USA. Ecohydrol Hydrobiol 16:215–228. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecohyd.2016.09.004
Laurian L, Day M, Backhurst M, Berke P, Ericksen N, Crawford J, Dixon J, Chapman S (2004) What drives plan implementation? Plans, planning agencies and developers. J Environ Plan Manag 47:555–577. https://doi.org/10.1080/0964056042000243230
Long PL (2017 The Mekong’s future flows: quantifying hydrological changes and developing adaptation options. PhD Dissertation, Wageningen University
Mäntysalo R (2013) Coping with the paradox of strategic spatial planning. disP Plann Rev 49:51–52. https://doi.org/10.1080/02513625.2013.859009
Mastop H, Faludi A (1997) Evaluation of strategic plans: the performance principle. Environ Plann B: Plann Des 24:815–832. https://doi.org/10.1068/b240815
Miles MB, Huberman AM (1994) Qualitative data analysis: an expanded sourcebook. SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks
Molle F, Mollinga P, Wester P (2009) Hydraulic bureaucracies and the hydraulic Mission: flows of water, flows of power. Water Altern 2:328–349
NEDECO (1993) Master plan for the Mekong Delta in Viet Nam: a perspective for sustainable development of land and water resources. Euroconsult, Arnhem
Nhan DK, Be NG, Trung NH (2007) Water use and competition in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. In: Be TT, Sinh BT, Miller F (eds) Challenges to Sustainable Development in the Mekong Delta: Regional and National Policy Issues and Research Needs. Sustainable Mekong Research Network (Sumernet), Bangkok, pp 143–188
Ostrom E (2007) Institutional rational choice: an assessment of the institutional analysis and development framework. In: Sabbatier PA (ed) Theories of the policy process. Westview Press, Cambridge, pp 21–64
Phi HL, Hermans LM, Douven WJAM, van Halsema GE, Khan MF (2015) A framework to assess plan implementation maturity with an application to flood management in Vietnam. Water Int 40:984–1003. https://doi.org/10.1080/02508060.2015.1101528
Pressman JL, Wildavsky AB (1984) Implementation: how great expectations in Washington are dashed in Oakland : or, why It’s amazing that federal programs work at all, this being a Saga of the Economic Development Administration as told by two sympathetic observers who seek to build morals on a foundation of ruined hopes. University of California Press, Berkeley
Renaud FG, Syvitski JPM, Sebesvari Z, Werners SE, Kremer H, Kuenzer C, Ramesh R, Jeuken A, Friedrich J (2013) Tipping from the Holocene to the Anthropocene: how threatened are major world deltas? Curr Opin Environ Sustain 5:644–654. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2013.11.007
Renaud FG, Szabo S, Matthews Z (2016) Sustainable deltas: livelihoods, ecosystem services, and policy implications. Sustain Sci 11:519–523. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-016-0380-6
Royal HaskoningDHV, Arcadis, Rebel et al (2014) Myanmar Integrated Water Resources Management Strategic Study. Royal HaskoningDHV, Amersfoort
Royal HaskoningDHV, Wageningen UR, Deltares et al (2013) Mekong Delta Plan: Long-term vision and strategy for a safe, prosperous and sustainable delta. Royal HaskoningDHV, Amersfoort
Sabbatier PA, Weible CM (2007) The advocacy coalition framework: innovations and clarifications. In: Sabbatier PA (ed) Theories of the policy process. Westview Press, Boulder, pp 189–222
Seijger C, Douven W, van Halsema G, Hermans L, Evers J, Phi HL, Khan MF, Brunner J, Pols L, Ligtvoet W, Koole S, Slager K, Vermoolen MS, Hasan S, Hoang VTM (2017) An analytical framework for strategic delta planning: negotiating consent for long-term sustainable delta development. J Environ Plan Manag 60:1485–1509. https://doi.org/10.1080/09640568.2016.1231667
Syvitski JPM, Kettner AJ, Overeem I, Hutton EWH, Hannon MT, Brakenridge GR, Day J, Vörösmarty C, Saito Y, Giosan L, Nicholls RJ (2009) Sinking deltas due to human activities. Nat Geosci 2:681–686. https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo629
Szabo S, Hossain MS, Adger WN, Matthews Z, Ahmed S, Lázár AN, Ahmad S (2016) Soil salinity, household wealth and food insecurity in tropical deltas: evidence from south-west coast of Bangladesh. Sustain Sci 11:411–421. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-015-0337-1
Talen E (1996) Do plans get implemented? A review of evaluation in planning. J Plan Lit 10:248–259. https://doi.org/10.1177/088541229601000302
Tessler ZD, Vörösmarty CJ, Grossberg M, Gladkova I, Aizenman H, Syvitski JPM, Foufoula-Georgiou E (2015) Profiling risk and sustainability in coastal deltas of the world. Science 349:638–643. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aab3574
Tong YD (2015) A cost-benefit analysis of dike heightening in the Mekong delta. World Fish, Los Baños
Tran D, van Halsema G, Hellegers PJGJ, Hoang LP, Tran TQ, Kummu M, Ludwig F (2017) Assessing impacts of dike construction on the flood dynamics in the Mekong Delta. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci Discuss 2017:1–41. https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-22-1875-2018 2018
Tran D, van Halsema G, Hellegers PJGJ, Ludwig F, Seijger C (2018a) Stakeholders assessment of alternative flood-based farming systems from a sustainable livelihood perspective in An Giang province. Agric Water Manag 206:187–199. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agwat.2018.04.039
Tran D, van Halsema G, Hellegers P, Ludwig F, Wyatt A (2018b) Questioning triple rice intensification on the Vietnamese Mekong delta floodplains: an environmental and economic analysis of current land-use trends and alternatives. J Environ Manag 217:429–441. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.03.116
Triet T, Barzen JA, Choowaew S, Engels JM, Ni DV, Mai NA, Inkhavilay K, Soben K, Sethik R, Gomotean B, Thuyen LX, Kyi A, Du NH, Nordheim R, Lam HST, Moore DM, Wilson S (2013) Persistent organic pollutants in wetlands of the Mekong Basin. USGS, Reston
Tuan CTH, Hoanh CT, Miller F, Sinh B (2007) Flood and salinity management in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. In: Be TT, Sinh BT, Miller F (eds) Challenges to Sustainable Development in the Mekong Delta: Regional and National Policy Issues and Research Needs. Sustainable Mekong Research Network (Sumernet), Bangkok, pp 14–68
Van Staveren M, van Tatenhove J, Warner J (2018) The tenth dragon: controlled seasonal flooding in long-term policy plans for the Vietnamese Mekong Delta. J Environ Policy Plan 20(3):267–281. https://doi.org/10.1080/1523908X.2017.1348287
Varis O, Rahaman MM, Stucki V (2008) The rocky road from integrated plans to implementation: lessons learned from the Mekong and Senegal River basins. Int J Water Resour Dev 24:103–121. https://doi.org/10.1080/07900620701723307
Vink MJ, Boezeman D, Dewulf A, Termeer CJAM (2013) Changing climate, changing frames: Dutch water policy frame developments in the context of a rise and fall of attention to climate change. Environ Sci Policy 30:90–101. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2012.10.010
Wagner F, Tran V, Renaud F (2012) Groundwater resources in the Mekong Delta: availability, utilization and risks. In: Renaud F, Künzer C (eds) The Mekong Delta: interdisciplinary analyses of a River Delta. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 201–220. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-3962-8_7
Wesselink A, Warner J, Syed MA, Chan F, Tran DD, Huq H, Huthoff F, Le Thuy F, Le Thuy N, Pinter N, Van Staveren M, Wester P, Zegwaard A (2015) Trends in flood risk management in deltas around the world: are we going ‘soft’? Int J Water Gov 3:25–46. https://doi.org/10.7564/15-IJWG90
Zevenbergen C, van Herk S, Rijke J, Kabat P, Bloemen P, Ashley R, Speers A, Gersonius B, Veerbeek W (2013) Taming global flood disasters. Lessons learned from Dutch experience. Nat Hazards 65:1217–1225. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-012-0439-3
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.
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.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Editor: James Ford.
Electronic supplementary material
About this article
Cite this article
Seijger, C., Hoang, V.T.M., van Halsema, G. et al. Do strategic delta plans get implemented? The case of the Mekong Delta Plan. Reg Environ Change 19, 1131–1145 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-019-01464-0
- Strategic planning
- Social learning
- Soft implementation
- Mekong Delta