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LESSONS:

Central Region Water Resources Project

sector: Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Rural Development | country: Viet Nam, Socialist Republic of

1. When policies and views diverge, constructive dialogue is often more rewarding than confrontation. When Decree 115 was promulgated by the government, it directly impacted the loan agreement. While the ADB project team could have invoked the agreement and demanded that either the decree be withdrawn or the project suspended, it chose to conduct constructive dialogue, resulting in a workable compromise. This allowed the physical completion of the project works with its associated benefits.

2. Participation in key decisions can have a major impact on the ownership of policies and institutional changes. Once proposed changes to the irrigation management companies and water user groups (WUGs) had been revised to take stakeholder views into account, they were enthusiastically taken up by government agencies, local administrations, and the intended beneficiaries themselves. The degree of ownership for the revamped institutions was tangible during field visits and interviews. This type of enthusiasm can only come from a participatory approach and a willingness to take into account all points of view as well as the actual field conditions. If an attempt had been made to push through the original revisions of the WUGs, results would have been far less promising.

3. One of the project’s major technical problems was the appearance of cracks in the Khe Ngang reservoir dam. This serious issue could have jeopardized a significant part of the project and could also have had further safety repercussions. The problem was resolved when the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, with ADB assistance, mobilized a senior engineering team to inspect the dam and come up with an acceptable and viable technical resolution. This positive and cooperative reaction by ADB allowed the works to be successfully completed with only a slight delay in the implementation schedule.

4. Critical decisions on project investments must be informed, careful, and judicious. At the time of the mid-term review mission in May 2009, contract awards were 8% of the total loan amount and disbursements were 5%. On the basis of such apparent poor performance it would have been possible to cancel the loan and shut down the project at that time. However, a full analysis by the review mission indicated that delays had been caused more by procedural problems than deficiencies in the capacity of the executing agency and that implementation was at the point of finally taking off. The adoption of a comprehensive analysis of the problems facing the project and the decision to continue with implementation allowed the project to be successfully completed.

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