Water Users: Differentiated access and utilisation amongst communities in the Mekong Delta
In the Mekong Delta, water is the lifeblood of local communities given its multiple uses – water for drinking, cooking, and sanitation as well as in supporting livelihood activities such as growing rice, fruits and vegetables, and aquaculture Research in both upstream and downstream communities has noted the use of water for irrigation of rice and sugar cane fields, fish and shrimp farms, vegetable and fruit gardens, small businesses and services. The research study will assess two areas along the Mekong Delta of varying issues and social circumstances. Dong Thap Province, an upstream area, faces flooding, pollution and water scarcity which makes water management difficult. But, the local community in the downstream in Tra Vinh Province of the Mekong Delta experiences water scarcity and management issues, pollutions as well as salt water intrusion, Khmer Ethnic Minority communities are found in the downstream area, and there are just few individuals of Khmer Ethnic Minority in an upstream area. Men and women are divided in the difference of 48 and 52 percent of population in both upstream and downstream communities. The poverty rate of the areas being studies are the biggest in both Tra Vinh and Dong Thap provinces.
In terms of decision making processes for community water management, poor families have a limited say in these matters despite being participants in these meetings, consultations and workshops. Their limited voice co-relates to their small land ownership and limited funds to contribute to water projects. As such, these poor families use poor quality water such as shadow ground water) and polluted water from the rivers and even canals that originate from rice fields and fish farms. The rich or middle classes are able to access high quality water as they have money to build deep pump station or even purchase water.
There is also differentiated participation in decision making amongst men and women. Men are invited into the meetings as they are owners of the households. Women also join but their opinions are over-ridden by the men. Members of the ethnic Khmer community do not participate much in the discussions as they assume water management to be the government’s responsibility. At upstream, there is a few Khmer ethnic group, they migrated from Cambodia and live in Vietnam side, in the contrast of upstream, many Khmer ethnic group in the downstream. Their role in decision making process of water management in the community is lesser than the Kinh (Vietnamese).
Moreover, through my research I have found that representation for community water management is limited for women, poor people, and Khmer ethnic minority. A Khmer community upstream lives in the border areas, but are not recognised by the provincial government as they state that there are no Khmer ethnic communities in the province, while local government officials say that although they are Khmer people, they are Vietnamese citizens.
This research will thus elaborate on these differentiated water access and utilisation – where the vulnerable groups such as women, Khmer minority and the poor are dominated by men, the Kinh majority and the wealthy.
This blog post has been written by Ly Quoc Dang. He is currently Researcher and Teaching Assistant at Mekong Delta Development Research Institute, Can Tho University, and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.
Last updated on 27/05/2014