Nguyen Van Huy International Conference on the Mekong, Salween and Red Rivers: Sharing Knowledge and Perspectives Across Borders

Nguyen Van Huy  International Conference on the Mekong, Salween and Red Rivers: Sharing Knowledge and Perspectives Across Borders

Nguyen Van Huy International Conference on the Mekong, Salween and Red Rivers: Sharing Knowledge and Perspectives Across Borders

15:33 - 16/03/2018

Community based water quality monitoring: a multi-benefit approach to water governance in the Red river basin, Vietnam
Small-scale irrigation – effective solution for sloping land areas
Assessment of climate change impacts on river flow regimes to support decision-making in water resources management in The Red River Delta, Vietnam – A case study of Nhue-Day River Basin
Impact of existing water fee policy in the Red River Basin, Vietnam

Furthermore, there is a growing recognition worldwide that a great deal of water problems in river basins, and particularly those related to water quality and quantity are rooted in failures to establish good water governance at a basin level (Nikitina, Ostrovskaya et al. 2010). According to the article of Margot Hill (2013), the approach to water governance is founded upon three core elements of governance

Community – based water quality monitoring:
A multi-benefit approach to water governance
in the red river basin, Vietnam


By Nguyen Van Huy


Presented at:

International Conference on the Mekong, Salween and Red Rivers:

Sharing Knowledge and Perspectives Across Borders


Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University,

12th November 2016





Public support is crucial for successful implementation of any projects and policies. This paper has analyzed issues and challenges related to water resources management with emphasis on the involvement and support of the public. It analyses the findings of a questionnaire-type survey (400 participants) conducted to determine the awareness, attitude, and behavior of Hanoi citizens towards urban community-based water monitoring. The results showed that the majority of citizens had knowledge about the important role of water protection in household and community environment. They are also willing to contribute financial resources to improve water quality (about 56%). No correlation was found between general characteristics and the public support of sharing financial resources (occupation, gender, income, age).  Based on the results, the government should have more actions to encourage citizens to participate in water policy-making process, from design, implementation to monitoring and evaluation. There is a need for better communication between the community and authorities for implementing water conservation and protection activities, which should include different methods and contents related to water management, such as  film shows, exhibitions, lectures, and the distribution of relevant posters. The authorities should set up and maintain water resource protection groups to organize community meetings and to disseminate information regarding water resources management.


Keywords: Public awareness; public perception; water conservation; public support.           




Some of the main problems of the Red river basin as mentioned in the report of Diep et al (2007) include water pollution, flooding, droughts and governance. Many river segments and lakes in the Red river basin, such as Cau, Day, Nhue and Thuong are being polluted as a result of the domestic and industrial activities. Untreatable wastewater discharged from the upstream area and from urban/industrial areas in the Northern Vietnam, exceeded Vietnamese standards. Regarding water governance issues, it can be seen that information and data on water resources are inadequate and inaccurate. The water environment's observation system is too outdated to manage the large river systems and the rapid pace of development in the country. Without proper data, it is difficult to stop the degradation of rivers and streams. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has drawn up national technical standards on managing surface water, underground water, coastal water, daily waste water and industrial water. However, the current observation system has a long way to go before it can meet the requirements of observing and analyzing water quality nation-wide. The current national water resource monitoring network for the Red River basin area that the National Center for Water Resources Planning and Investigation is operating and managing consists of 198 stations in which only 10 stations are for surface water monitoring. Of the 10 surface monitoring stations, only 3 are monitoring water quality status with some parameters (such as: TSS, EC, pH, COD, BOD5, Coliform and temperature) according to Vietnam technical regulation No. 08:2008/BTNMT. The rest stations (7) are only monitoring for water level (see Figure 1). Thus, there is a lack of a national database on water resources. Moreover, the public participation in water monitoring program is low.

 Figure 1: Diagram of water monitoring network for Northern Delta region

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2007), water management has become more and more important in recent years due to the fact that climate change has been having a huge impact on water resources, leading to the threats of floods and droughts to be more frequent, severe and widespread. Therefore, the proper management of water resources is very important to ensure a sustainable socioeconomic development of every country all over the world(Hutton & Bartram 2008; UNESCO 2009). It is acknowledged that good water managers not only need to understand how water resources are impacted upon by socioeconomic activities but also what are the attitudes and practices of key stakeholders towards water issues. Identifying particular attitudes and practices toward water issues such as quality monitoring is essential in effective management of this crucial natural resource (Segerfeldt 2005; Welte & Anastasio 2010). Obviously, to minimize the impacts of human on the water environment, we need to consider from technological and behavioral perspectives. Considering how people behave in relation to the water environment is important to advancing our understanding of how and why water resources are managed in particular ways and in turn how associated impacts on the water environment can be minimized (Welte & Anastasio 2010). It is clear that communities have very important role in monitoring their water resources. In some western nations, the concepts and approaches of community based water monitoring have already been developed and applied. Community based monitoring (CBM) is defined and understood as “a process where concerned citizens, government agencies, industry, academia, community groups and local institutions collaborate to monitor, track and respond to issues of common community concern” (Whitelaw, Graham et al. 2003). CBM seeks to give the community the lead in both collecting data and in using the information generated to promote informed decision-making. It thus promotes sustainability at a community and at a wider level. Community based monitoring can provide a number of benefits and opportunities, for both government and the community (Whitelaw, Graham et al. 2003). Firstly, CBM can benefit government through the extension of their monitoring networks, cost savings, promotion of public participation to achieve government goals, and providing an early warning system of ecological changes. Secondly, non-governmental organizations and communities can benefit from CBM through the engagement of individuals in local water issues, the development of social capital and the opportunity to have input into the management of natural resources. It has been said that the integration of community based water monitoring into water resource management is one of the most significant developments in this area (Kenney 2001). However, it can be acknowledged that the practice of CBM raises main scientific concern as data collection and use. If these data are to be reliable and the conclusions are to support decision making, community base water monitoring programs must be careful to look at their design and must stick firmly to standards of ecological monitoring (Vos, Meelis & Ter Keurs 2000). The purpose of this research design is to investigate the attitudes and practices of communities in Red river basin towards water resources issues. From this, a suitable community-based water monitoring program for Red river basin will be developed and attained.


The research methodology is broken into several elements, each with a specific purpose. These include rural population, institutions and organizations survey on patterns of attitudes and practices relating to water quality monitoring. Another aspect of the project is to complete a scan of literature and websites pertaining to watershed groups in the world and their involvement in water quality monitoring. At first, the questionnaires for individual interviews and focus group discussions will be developed. The interviews and discussions will be implemented with local people aged 18 years and over, institutes and organization in the Red river basin. The questionnaires will be divided into some main groups: general information of respondents; the attitudes and practices regarding water quality monitoring. The data will be summarized and analyzed using SPSS 18.0 software and based on the descriptive statistics methods. The basic sample design applying in all states is random. In each commune, a number of sampling points will be drawn in accordance with population size and population density. Further addresses will be selected by random route procedures, from the initial address. In each household, the respondent will be drawn, at random following the closest birthday rule. All face-to-face interviews will be conducted at citizens’ homes and in the suitable national language. Approaches to community based water quality monitoring (literature review) will also be analyzed. And the development of adequate models for involving stakeholders in monitoring programs in the Red river basin will be based on results from the assessment of community’s attitudes and practices regarding water quality monitoring.


There is no universal formula for CBWM; however, Craig and others (2003) identified four approaches. The first is top-down approaches or government-led CBWM initiatives, whereby the government initiates the project. The second approach is interpretive CBWM which strives to get communities involved in an environmental issue and thereby educate them about the surrounding environment. Another monitoring approach is bottom-up monitoring, also known as advocacy monitoring, which usually happens when a group focuses on the efforts in order to make action on a previous specific problem or concern that will affect the decision-making process. This approach is not usually successful. Even though there may be examples when bottom-up monitoring is appropriate. An illustration of this is the Vedan case or Vedan company of Vietnam that caused serious water pollution, contamination and other consequences for ecosystem of Thi Vai river for a long time, before any actions has been made by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to prevent this situation. There are many reasons why this approach tends to be unsuccessful. Some of the main reasons include the fact that groups may be monitoring a problem for which there are no comprehensive environmental laws or policies to remediate the concern. The last approach that mentioned by Craig and others (2003) is multiparty monitoring. This approach involves ‘‘all interested stakeholders including citizens, private landowners, representatives of civil society organizations, business, government, and other committed to the community’’.

Table 1: Summary of benefits and challenges of CBWM (Conrad, CC & Hilchey 2011)



Increasing environmental democracy (sharing of information)

Lack of volunteer interest/lack of networking opportunities

Scientific literacy (Broader community/public education)

Lack of funding

Social capital (volunteer engagement, agency connection, leadership building, problem-solving and identification of resources)

Inability to access appropriate information/expertise

Citizen inclusion in local issues

Data fragmentation, inaccuracy, lack of objectivity

Data provided at no cost to government

Lack of experimental design

Ecosystems being monitored that otherwise would not be

Insufficient monitoring expertise/quality assurance and quality control

Government desire to be more inclusive is met

Monitoring for the sake of monitoring

Support/drive proactive changes to policy and legislation

Utility if CBWM data (for decision-making; environmental

management; conservation)

Can provide an early warning/detection system



All people were asked to participate and agreed to do so. A total of 400 people, 204 males (51%) and 196 females (49%) completed the questionnaire. A summary of the demographic characteristics of the Hanoi city population and of the survey participants is given in Tables 1. Overall, the age distributions reveal a higher proportion of young age participants from 18 - 34 years old (42%). The income of interviewees is highest at the level from 5 – 10 million VND accounted for 29 %. Most respondents have been living in survey area for over 10 years (48%). Therefore, it can be seen that the information they provided is with high confidence interval.



The length of residential time










(Million VND)






<1 year


< 3






1 -3 year








3 -5 year








5-10 year








>10 year












Table 2: Demographic data of the survey participants

It is necessary to discover the public attitudes towards the water resources management of government. How do the people assess the of authorities will play crucial role in improving the performance of these actors. In Vietnam, responsibilities for managing and protecting water resources are assigned to several layers of government from national to local level. Local authorities are have a primary responsibility for water protection and management. Unfortunately, as illustrated in figure 5, only 6% of respondents commented that the management and propaganda methods of government departments are good, while most citizens (43%) rated as poorly managing and protecting water quality.

Figure 2: Performance in managing and protecting water quality of the government

The findings showed that public is willing to contribute financial support to improve water quality for their daily uses and for environment. The rate was about 56 % of respondents say “Yes”, and 30% of people will contribute if the amount is not exceed 0.5-5% income. Only 10% answered “No”. It can be seen that, Hanoi communities desire to participate in water resource conservation and protection activities (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Is public willing to contribute finance to improve water quality for daily use

Despite the fact that 68% of respondents are aware of groundwater being used and exhausted, there is still about over 30% of the public are not well informed to know about it. The reason is likely that 85% of the public is not actively participated in any water conservation and protection groups (figure 4). Therefore, the water projects and policies need to encourage and mobilize the participation of community in process of planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluation. Work with the community to understand what they want on government actions because community participation is key to successful water interventions and policies.

Figure 4: Public participation in water conservation and protection activities


Essentially, the government should properly inform the public about the current water issues and challenges. This is an important step to gain the community support and participation. Several studies stated that awareness is a crucial component of the problem solving process (Hmelo-Silver 2004). For this reason, the public should have well knowledge and information regarding water management issues. In this survey, there was still about over 30% of the respondents are not well informed to know about it. Moreover, 85% of the public is not participated in any water conservation and protection groups. Therefore, the government agency should to be a central actor to mobilize communities to water management activities.

The results showed that 56% of people did respond positively towards sharing the cost of improvement in the water supply and protection. And 30% of people will contribute if the amount is not exceed 0.5-5% income. It can be seen that, recognizing of the importance of water, the Hanoi citizens generally support government efforts to manage water resources.

The findings also indicate the opinion of the public on the performance of the government and authorities. As described in figure 5, only 6% of respondents commented that the management and propaganda methods of government departments are good, while most citizens (43%) rated as poorly managing and protecting water quality. The government should consider this as a reference and lesson learnt for improving their performance and response.


It is acknowledged that water quality monitoring is essential for environmental protection, managing waterways. Obviously, this current monitoring system has a long way to go before it can meet the requirements of observing and analyzing water quality for such the very large Red river system. Without proper information and data, it is very difficult to stop the pollution and degradation of the river.

Furthermore, there is a growing recognition worldwide that a great deal of water problems in river basins, and particularly those related to water quality and quantity are rooted in failures to establish good water governance at a basin level (Nikitina, Ostrovskaya et al. 2010). According to the article of Margot Hill (2013), the approach to water governance is founded upon three core elements of governance: accountability, transparency and participation in which participation is about the involvement of citizens and communities in decision making process. Many case studies in the world have revealed that community involvement, stakeholder coordination, including enhancing their involvement and partnerships, appears to be among the powerful tools in good water governance in river basins.

Therefore, establishing a community-based water quality monitoring program is essential and can have several benefits. Firstly, it can contribute to provide suitable information and data for local action planning or decision making as well as current database system of the national water monitoring network. Secondly, it helps to identify pollution events and educate communities. Thirdly, the participation of local communities and stakeholders such as students and youth, unions, authorities, NGOs, business, and land users in the community-based water monitoring program could establish a network for future consultation of water governance processes and a basis for future internal interactions in the basin. That is why it is needed to set up a community-based monitoring network for water quality in the Red river basin.



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