Research project

Ongoing Impacts from the Surge in Sand Mining during COVID-19: Enhanced River Bank Erosion Hazard & Risk in Vietnam's Mekong Delta

Project overview

SE Asia's CV19 economic recovery plan is heavily reliant on an expanded construction industry, creating high demand for sand across the region. Sand is routinely mined from large rivers and is normally subject to regulation because, if it is removed more rapidly than it is replaced by river flows, it can trigger adverse socio-environmental impacts that hinder development. These include bank erosion - threatening homes and infrastructure - while over-deepened delta channels are also prone to saltwater intrusion. The Mekong delta is already experiencing these problems, but the issue highlighted in this project is that the CV19 'lockdown' - and potentially the recovery - led to an upsurge in unregulated sand mining due to limitations in governance capacity. This research developed novel satellite based monitoring techniques to track sand mining activity and assessed the extent to which it further stimulated bank erosion using empirical data and numerical models. Mapping of exposed populations and infrastructure allowed the team to establish changing spatial patterns of hazard, vulnerability and risk. Ongoing work with team members ad Public Policy at Southampton will use the results to guide remediation efforts and aid efforts to promote stronger regulation of sand mining, both post CV19 and for any future disrupting events (including, but not limited to, pandemics) that could potentially stimulate an upsurge in illegal mining.


Lead researcher

Professor Julian Leyland


Research interests

  • Fluvial and Intertidal Geomorphology
  • Remote Environmental Sensing
  • UAVs, USVs and Autonomy in Geoscience
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Other researchers

Professor Steve Darby

Associate Dean Research

Research interests

  • River and coastal flooding - relationships between geomorphology and flooding in rivers and deltas
  • Biogeomorphology - interactions between river processes and life
  • River bank erosion processes
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Professor Craig Hutton

Director Sustainability&Resilience Inst.
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Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

Research outputs

Magdalena Smigaj, Christopher Hackney, Phan Kieu Diem, Pham Dang Tri Van, Nguyen Thi Ngoc, Duong Bui, Stephen Darby & Julian Leyland, 2022, Science of the Total Environment
Type: article