Utrecht researchers help make Vietnam climate-proof

Last Wednesday, 10 April, the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management Cora van Nieuwenhuizen officially opened the ‘Climate Proof Vietnam’ programme in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi. The programme will provide the country with support in training professionals in the field of water management. Several parties will join forces in this project, led by Delft University of Technology. Physical geographers Esther Stouthamer and Maarten van der Vegt will participate in the project on behalf of Utrecht University.

The three-year project will support Vietnam by training professionals in the field of water management; training that is desperately needed, as the country is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change. ‘Climate Proof Vietnam’ will encourage prospective university students to enrol in water management studies, in order to help protect their country against flooding. The partnership was created in part to set up an appealing curriculum at two universities to attract larger numbers of talented students.

Credits: TU Delft

Land subsidence & salinization

Dr Esther Stouthamer leads research theme B: ‘Delta Functioning’ within the Utrecht Water, Climate & Future Deltas hub, which focuses on understanding the natural and social internal drivers of change, controls and feedback processes and their impacts in deltas and their shallow coastal waters. Dr Stouthamer studies natural and human-induced land subsidence processes and subsurface built-up and characteristics influencing subsurface stability of e.g. flood defenses in river deltas, the studied processes and changes can take place within a decade, but also over periods of millennia. Dr Maarten van der Vegt specialises in the interactions between water flows, sediment transport, and the morphological development of delta systems. As part of the Rise & Fall project he studies the effects that dredging the arms of the Mekong Delta have on salinization.

Highest government levels

Stouthamer, Van der Vegt and co-researcher Philip Minderhoud are intimately familiar with the specific problems Vietnam faces, as they were closely involved in a ground-breaking study of land subsidence in the Mekong Delta. Thanks to their research, the issue is now high on the Vietnamese government’s agenda, as land subsidence in the delta, combined with rising sea levels, will present serious problems for the 18 million people who call the delta home. The study on land subsidence was also a topic of discussion during a recent summit between Mrs. Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management of the Netherlands and her Vietnamese counterparts. This indicates that the issue has the attention of the highest levels in the Vietnamese government.

Orange Knowledge Programme

‘Climate Proof Vietnam’ is a collaborative effort by Delft University of Technology, the University of Twente, Hanoi University of Natural Resources and the Environment, and Thuy Loi University, and is part of the Orange Knowledge Programme financed by NUFFIC. Other public and private partners from the Netherlands and Vietnam include Utrecht University, Deltares, Royal Haskoning DHV, VINWater, Rijkswaterstaat, World Water Net, and CDR International. Esther Stouthamer and Maarten van der Vegt are members of the NUFFIC project team.

More information

About Climate Proof Vietnam: Delft University of Technology​ press release.
About Utrecht University’s research into land subsidence in the Mekong Delta: news article on the occasion of the PhD Defence by Philip Minderhoud.