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The Resilience and Sustainability of the Mekong Delta to Changes in Water and Sediment Fluxes

Recruiting Vietnam government stakeholders

The world's 33 largest deltas are being drowned by relative sea level rise and are, as a result, rapidly losing land. This process is also driving an exacerbation of flood risk in these environments, which is placing many large cities, key infrastructure and over 0.5 billion people at risk globally. These issues are most acute for deltas across Southern and Southeast Asia, where an estimated 20% of land will be lost by 2100. These risks are significant. For example, floods during the 2011 Asian monsoon killed an estimated 2000 people and caused ~US$45 billion in economic damage across SE Asia.

Large river deltas, and their ecosystem services, underpin regional food security for rapidly growing populations. However, due to the relative sea-level rise, they are experiencing an accelerating saline intrusion that threatens the availability of clean drinking water, agricultural productivity and food security in general. There is therefore an urgent need to evolve an improved generic understanding of the processes behind the relative sea level rise and flood risk dynamics in these deltaic environments into the future.

A research project led by the University of Hull in collaboration with key stakeholders in the region representing both government agencies (Southern Institute of Water Resources Research - SIWRR) and academic institutes (Can Tho University) investigates the Mekong Delta in Vietnam as an example of how large deltas evolve under compound human pressures. This area of fertile, low-lying land is home to 18 million people and supports the livelihoods of at least 60 million. The area is slowly drowning as global sea-levels are rising, sediment reserves are being depleted and extreme river floods worsen.

The project investigates flow and sediment routing through the Delta across the annual monsoon flood to develop a new generic understanding of the impact of relative sea-level rise and sediment routing processes through distributary channels and key bifurcation sites on the delta. This is achieved through collection of new state-of-the-art field datasets, development and application of a suite of morphodynamic numerical models and utilisation of system dynamics modelling to guide adaptations to changes. Historical data provided by the project's Vietnamese partners has developed our understanding of deltaic evolution through the recent past.

To support the attainment of the project's main objective, namely, to present key findings of the of the Mekong Delta region on the future evolution of flood, saline intrusion and land loss hazards, Public Policy|Southampton's aim is to deliver the findings to those who can effectively influence decision making and policy implementation. If you are interested in helping, please email:

To find out more about the 'Shifting Sands' project watch the documentary here .

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