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LESSONS:

Red River Delta Water Resources Sector Project

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

Although the project’s Benefit Monitoring and Evaluation (BME) program is being implemented successfully, it highlights (i) the desirability of commencing BME at an early stage of project implementation, (ii) the needto monitor control areas as well as benefiting areas, and (iii) the desirability of maximizing theuse of secondary data. It is important for future projects that BME is not seen as an end in itself,but rather as a valuable tool which can feed into the management of existing, and the design ofnew, subprojects.

For future projects, project planning should be based on a river basin development approach. It should also be undertaken within an overall system context and should address key constraints in an integrated manner. While the design of the project did not place any particular limit on the scale of subproject investments, in practice, central project office (CPO) and the design companies attempted to remain within the $3.0 million limit, above which subprojects had to be approved by ADB review missions. This resulted in a fragmented and truncated approach in the case of anumber of subprojects. Artificial cost limitations should not of themselves drive subproject selection.

Future projects need to ensure that parallel downstream investments required from provinces, cooperatives, or farmers are made in a timely manner. In several of the project’s subproject areas, investments in the secondary and tertiary canal systems have been less than optimal, resulting in lowered system performance and an inability to fully capitalize on project investments.

Getting the design of subprojects right is the key to project performance and impact. The project employed a traditional approach to subProject Design, focusing almost entirely on primary infrastructure. A more participatory and holistic approach to design should result in improved outcomes. Future project designs therefore should include extensive consultation with the primary stakeholders (farmers, water management groups, and irrigation and drainage management companies [IDMCs]). Examples of contributions that these stakeholders can make to system design include identification of investment needs in secondary and tertiary drainage and irrigation systems, alignment and level of canals and drains, location of major structures, and placement of spoil from excavations.

Since the management of most of the irrigation and drainage systems is under thejurisdiction of provincial governments, provincial stakeholders should take a lead role in upgrading and rehabilitating intraprovincial systems under future projects. Under the project, except for complex components such as large pump stations, and large outfall and intake sluices, implementation of several subproject components could have been delegated to the provinces with sufficient implementation capacity.

The project and the technical assistance (TA) were intended to assist in the development of Viet Nam’s water resources institutions. In practice, their impact has been limited. The project and TA experiencehighlights the difficulties in encouraging institutions to adopt new approaches to planning andmanagement. A careful assessment is required during project and TA design of the agency’sreceptiveness to new institutional and operational concepts and the potential to operationalizethem. Furthermore, TA inputs should be planned in a phased manner so that in case ofinsufficient support and ownership on the part of the executing agency, the TA can bereformulated, rescheduled or, in the worst case, terminated.

The project has shown that physical interventions do not necessarily lead to improved irrigation fee collection – one of the project’s objectives. Specific activities need to be integrated in the project design to address cost-recovery issues, taking into account the role of the provincial people’s committees in setting irrigation and drainage fees, the performance of the irrigation and drainage management companies (IDMCs) in providing irrigation and drainage services, and the role of the cooperatives and their water management groups. In-system irrigation and drainage conflicts also need to be understood and addressed. For future projects, inclusion of reform measures to improve theperformance of water sector institutions should be considered, besides the physical interventions.

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